THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines has asked the Supreme Court to annul the Commission on Elections’ award of a P268.8-million contract to technology provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management to diagnose 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan voting machines without a public bidding.
The IBP made its plea even as the Comelec on Thursday said the Mosler safe at the central bank building that houses the Source Codes for the 2010 and 2013 automated election systems would be temporarily moved today.
The safe is to be moved after the central bank decided to start the installation of partitions in the main vault in its offices on Mabini Street to rationalize the use of space in its vaults.
The IBP, the national organization of lawyers, also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the Comelec from implementing its contract with Smartmatic through its Resolution 9922.
The group, through its national president Vicente Joyas and general counsel Pacifico Agabin, former law dean of the University of the Philippines, said Resolution 9922 should be declared void for violating the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Earlier, the election watchdogs Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections or C3E and Automated Election System or AES Watch also filed separate petitions before the high court seeking to stop Smartmatic from participating in any bidding process for next year’s elections.
They also asked the high court to stop the Comelec from awarding any contracts to Smartmatic or from proceeding with the bidding of multi-million contracts for the 2016 elections where the latter is a participant.
The petitioners were also referring to the P268.8-million contract to diagnoe the PCOS machines for reuse in the 2016 elections; the procurement of the Optimal Mark Reader or OMR and Direct Recording Electronic or DRE Machines; and the procurement of papers or the lease of Election Management System or EMS and Precinct-Based Direct Recording Electronic or DRE Technology.
The petitioners said the award of the contract to Smartmatic to diagnose the PCOS machines contravened RA 9184 as it brushed aside the requirement of a competitive bidding.
They also said Smartmatic should be barred from participating in the procurement for the 2016 Elections or in any government procurement, for a period of at least two years for committing several “misrepresentations” to the poll body and for violating its obligations under the 2010 automated election system project contract.
According to the IBP, the Comelec violated RA 9184 when the poll body, through its former chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., signed the P268.8- million contract with Smartmatic-TIM for the repair, refurbishment and maintenance of the PCOS machines that were used in the 2010 and 2013 elections without conducting a public bidding as required by RA 9184.
In opting to approve Smartmatic’s extended warrant proposal instead of conducting a public bidding, the Comelec cited “tight time schedule” in the preparations for the forthcoming national and local elections if public bidding is to be conducted.
The Comelec justified its action, saying it would be “too great a risk” to give the refurbishment and repair of the PCOS machines to any third party other than Smartmatic considering the highly technical nature of the refurbishment and repair of the machines.
However, the IBP said the supposed “tight time schedule” in the preparation for the May 2016 national and local elections was not a ground to dispense with the conduct of public bidding under the law.
“It may not be amiss to point out that one of the policies of the State is the promotion of good governance in all its instrumentalities. Corollary to this policy is the Comelec’s duty to safeguard the public trust and confidence in elections,” the IBP said.
“This duty is only possible when there is transparency and a system of accountability in the procurement of the maintenance, diagnostics and repair of the PCOS machines. Accordingly, the Comelec’s approval of the extended warranty proposal constitutes grave abuse of discretion as it grossly violates the requirement of public and competitive bidding under R.A. 9184, which was enacted to ensure transparency in procurement processes conducted by the government.” With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan