Thursday, May 07, 2009

Automated elections in 2010 in danger

Automated elections in the Philippines by 2010 is being thwarted by evil forces that have benefited from the massively fraudulent manual elections that the country has had every three years since 1992.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is a will not, people find all sorts of reasons why they cannot. (Kapag gusto, maraming paraan. Kapag ayaw, maraming dahilan.)

At the Comelec, Chairman Jose Melo seems to be setting the stage for a return to manual elections:

Bidding failure looms for automated poll contract
Updated May 07, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo expressed concern about a bidding failure after the agency’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) rejected four more bidders for the P11.3-billion poll automation contract.

Melo, who has stayed on the sidelines since the SBAC held a pre-bidding conference last month and started opening the bid offers last Monday, said: “I am worried about this bidding.”

In an interview, he said a failure in the bidding might result in Comelec reverting to manual elections next year.

The Comelec-SBAC said the four bidders failed to submit certain documentary requirements, bringing to six the consortiums rejected in the eligibility screening.

While couching the dangerous possibility of returning to manual elections in the legalities of bidding, Melo and his fellow commissioners may have found an imagined stumbling block to automated elections.

Last Tuesday night, the SBAC declared Total Information Management Co. of the Philippines and Smartmatic of the Netherlands as “ineligible to bid” for failing to submit an ISO 9000 certification.

The ISO 9001:2000 certification presented by Smartmatic “does not belong to it, but was issued to Jarltech International Inc. which is not a member of the joint venture,” it said.

Yesterday, the committee rejected the consortium of Amalgated Metro Philippines and Syrex Inc., both of the Philippines, and Anishin Inc. of Taiwan for not presenting a certificate of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the consortium of AMA Group of Companies of the Philippines and Election System and Software of USA for failing to submit a license to import.

This leaves only the bid offers of Gilat of Israel and F.F. Cruz and Co. Inc. of the Philippines to be reviewed by the SBAC.

Scoring Smartmatic for not having an ISO 9001:2000 certification is probably a sign of being overly stringent when it should not be. For one, the certification is only given to manufacturers and Smartmatic is not a manufacturer but a consortium which contracts manufacturers or leasers of equipment to provide election machines. Its supplier of machines, Jarltech International Inc., possesses ISO 9001:2000 certification.

Amalgated Metro Philippines and Syrex Inc., both of the Philippines, and Anishin Inc. of Taiwan for not presenting a certificate of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SEC registration is a vital requirement but it is nevertheless just a piece of paper which guarantees nothing nor prevents people from being swindled out of rights and money.

We've already seen the cases of supposedly legitimate, SEC registered corporations take money from people supposedly for pre-need policies which later belly up and leave thousands in penury, all their savings virtually lost.

I am sure that given the importance of holding Automated Elections in 2010, we can find a way to relax the time frame for this requirement. Perhaps the Comelec can do with some proof that both companies are seeking SEC registration.

The consortium of AMA Group of Companies of the Philippines and Election System and Software of USA for failing to submit a license to import. Again, these requirements can be relaxed, pending some proof of applying for a license to import.

On another front, known ally of the Arroyo Administration, Congressman Pablo Garcia is raising the spectre that automated elections may be illegal.

Senior House leader Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia on Wednesday invited fellow congressmen to sign a letter that he drafted calling on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to abandon its plan to fully automate the 2010 elections.

"The overwhelming sentiment of the members of this House, as expressed in the all-party caucus called by the Speaker, is that we are not for total automation of the May 10, 2010 elections.... but only for a partial or mixed automation--manual for the local and possibly automation for the national," Garcia told the plenary.

He said there are serious questions not only on the logistical capability of the poll body to implement full automation, but also on the legality and constitutionality of full automation.

Garcia is a member of President Arroyo's political party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI), and had previously sought the Speakership.

"I am hopeful that if the members of Congress will call the attention of Comelec, tell them, 'Wait. Dahan dahan. Try to review your position. Your original position is that there is a need for special law,'" Garcia told the House plenary on Wednesday.

Perhaps congressman Garcia should note two things:

First is that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself said that one of the most important goals of her administration is to Automate the Elections.

Second, Garcia should also consider that there are two laws which mandate the conduct of automated elections. The first was RA 8436 which was amended by RA 9369 in 2006.

Apparently the bone of his contention is Section 5 of RA 9369 which is the requirement for the pilot testing of the automated election system.

Comelec failed to follow the provision of the law, which ordered the poll body to pilot test poll automation in the immediate election following the law's passage in May 2007 in at least two urbanized cities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Section 5 of the law reads: "To carry out the above-stated policy, the Commission on Elections, herein referred to as the Commission, is hereby authorized to use an automated election system or systems in the same election in different provinces, whether paper-based or a direct recording electronic election system as it may deem appropriate and practical for the process of voting, counting of votes and canvassing/consolidation and transmittal of results of electoral exercises: Provided, that for the regular national and local election, which shall be held immediately after effectivity of this Act, the AES shall be used in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, to be chosen by the Commission: Provided, further, That local government units whose officials have been the subject of administrative charges within sixteen (16) month prior to the May 14, 2007 election shall not be chosen: Provided, finally, That no area shall be chosen without the consent of the Sanggunian of the local government unit concerned. The term local government unit as used in this provision shall refer to a highly urbanized city or province. In succeeding regular national or local elections, the AES shall be implemented nationwide."

Pushing through with full automation without the special law is illegal, he said.

What he has failed to consider is that Pilot Testing of the automated polling system has already been done during the ARMM Elections.

Perhaps the congressman is just too afraid of losing in the next elections, especially considering that he may have benefited immensely from the massively fraudulent manual elections.

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