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PCOS use may cause election failure, group says

THE 2016 elections may fail if the Commission on Elections allows Smartmatic-TIM to repair the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines they sold to the government in addition to a new contract to provide 23,000 more voting machines, according to an election watchdog.

The Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections said a failure of elections is a real possibility because of the serious complaints over vote miscounts and outright vote manipulation in the last two elections involving Smartmatic-TIM.

“It is almost a certainty,” said C3E convenor and engineer Hermenegildo Estrella Jr., an expert in IT and management systems.

“With an automated system very much prone to manipulation and an obsolete technology the ownership of which remains an unsettled question, all these are necessary elements for a failure of elections,” he said.

Estrella recalled that instead of inspiring faith in automated elections, the issue of the “60-30-10” manipulation of voting results favoring certain candidates emerged in addition to several pending complaints and cases of electoral fraud, vote miscounts, and digital vote shaving.

“We are again putting the election in the hands of some dangerous people and who will dictate our country’s direction if the Comelec allows the fault-ridden Smartmatic to be part of 2016,” Estrella said.

Estrella noted that Smartmatic “has yet to be made answerable for deceiving the Commission on Elections for having claimed it owned the automated technology, and being the manufacturer of the PCOS machines it sold to the government in 2012.”

“Smartmatic is a middleman masquerading as an industry expert. They don’t even own the very hardware and software of the PCOS machines they sell, which belong to Jarltech and Dominion, respectively,” explained C3E spokesperson Dave Diwa, also president of the  National Labor Union.

“For Smartmatic to claim it is the sole provider capable of refurbishing the PCOS is outrageous,” Diwa said, disputing the claim of  Smartmatic Philippines president Cesar Flores that they alone are capable of refurbishing the 80,000 old machines because they own the PCOS technology.

“There are plenty of more than equally capable and willing companies who could provide the same service, and at a fraction of the cost,” Diwa added.

Claiming that Comelec appears to be bent on awarding the P1.2-billion refurbishment contract to Smartmatic through the so-called extended warranty agreement, Diwa warned that the move may cause political turmoil.

“Smartmatic has become very much familiar with the workings of Philippine politics that its system is now vulnerable to political machinations,” Diwa said.

But the Comelec officials said the commission is actually split on whether to grant the refurbishment deal to Smartmatic and is set to decide the matter before the year ends.

Just last week, the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee deemed Smartmatic-TIM, along with another company, eligible to participate in the second stage of the bidding for 23,000 additional PCOS machines for 2016 despite questions on the documents submitted by Smartmatic.

Earlier, former national treasurer Leonor Briones threatened to sue the Comelec if it allows Smartmatic to refurbish what she described as “useless” PCOS machines that were used in the last elections because they have become obsolete.

Briones said the PCOS, like computers, are considered to have zero value three years after it has been first used and can no longer be repaired.

Since the PCOS were used in the 2010 elections, she said, they are now over three years old and can no longer be repaired despite the claim of Smartmatic that the government would benefit if the contract was awarded to Smartmatic because it had exclusive rights over the voting machines’ parts.

In addition, the Comelec would not have to seek a re-certification if new software were needed for some of the parts, according to Smartmatic president for Asia Cesar Flores.

Flores argued that since Smartmatic had the exclusive rights over the machines, it had sole authority to refurbish the equipment for the 2016 presidential elections.

But Briones she supports the moves to blacklist Smartmatic and put an end to its involvement in any other election-related activities in the country.

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