Comelec should push through with poll automation
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) must do everything in its capacity to push through with the automation of the May 2010 Elections, Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today said.
Gordon, principal author of the amended Automated Elections System Law, made the statement after Comelec chairman Jose Melo said that there is a slim chance of having automated elections next year after the pull-out of Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) from its joint venture with Smartmatic to supply the poll body with the voting machines.
"Napakaselan nitong sitwasyon na ito. Hindi ito biro at hindi dapat agad-agad nagde-desisyon ng ganyan ang Comelec dahil ang lumalabas wala na silang magagawa. Dapat pilitin nila dahil yan ang mandato sa kanila ng batas," he said.
"The country cannot be held hostage by just one bidder. We have fought long and worked hard for the passage of this law. And now that we are about to have it, the Comelec cannot just give up too quick and surrender the fate of the whole country to one entity," he added.
Gordon said there are still options for the Comelec after the TIM withdrew from the contract.
First, it can disqualify Smartmatic-TIM and undertake and reconsider the submission of the other bidders under the post-qualification procedure to get the next lowest calculated bid (LCB), until an award is made.
Second, in the interest of efficiency and considering that automating the 2010 elections is a matter of paramount national importance, the Comelec can resort to limited source bidding.
For limited source bidding, the Comelec shall directly invite a set of pre-selected suppliers or consultants with known experience and proven capability relative to the requirements of supplying an automated elections system, to bid for the contract.
Also, the Comelec may adjust its Terms of Reference to perhaps allow 100% foreign suppliers, manufacturers and/or distributors to join the bidding, as the goods sought to be procured are not available from local sources.
The requirement for 60% Filipino equity for the supply of goods is found only in the implementing rules and regulations of the Government Procurement Reform Act and not in the law itself.
"Dapat pilitin natin ang Comelec na gumalaw dahil kaya naman nilang gawin yan eh. We have been trying to automate our elections since 1997; it took us four years to pass the law; and we have succeeded in the ARMM elections; and so we cannot allow this incident to ruin the automation of our elections and the modernization of Philippine democracy," Gordon said.
"This election automation is something we cannot afford to lose. We must make it happen so that for once, we can have honest, clean, speedy and credible elections," he added.