Comelec close to awarding P11.3-B contract

30 05 2009

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:03:00 05/30/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Computing & Information Technology

MANILA, Philippines—After the lone surviving bidder in the P11.3 billion poll automation project hurdled 24 of 26 criteria, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Friday night said it was close to awarding the huge contract—if anyone deserved to win it.

The two tests still to be hurdled by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine of the remaining bidder—the consortium of the Smartmatic International and Total Informational Management Corp. (Smartmatic-TIM)—pertained to its capability to run on battery power for 12 straight hours and to scan and save 2,000 ballot images, according to Ferdinand Rafanan, chair of the Comelec’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC).

“We’re very, very near to finishing the testing of the machines and the awarding of the contract, if it will be awarded,” Rafanan told reporters.

He said Smartmatic-TIM’s machine had hurdled 24 of the criteria set by the SBAC’s technical working group (TWG).

Smartmatic-TIM is a Dutch consortium.

Rafanan said the TWG reported that the machine had correctly read all the 640 ballots that were fed into it.

The machine also recorded a 100 percent accuracy rate when 625 ballots were fed into it during an earlier test on Wednesday, Rafanan said.

Rival bidder

Rafanan brushed off insinuations that the SBAC should have disqualified the Dutch consortium after its PCOS machine emitted smoke during a test run on Thursday.

He said the smoke only came from a burned wire and not from the PCOS unit itself.

“The wiring of the battery was not part of the system,” he said.

Rafanan, however, said the SBAC would still have to rule on the motion for reconsideration filed by the consortium of AMA Group of Companies and Election System and Software before they could decide on the awarding the contract.

As of 8 p.m., the five-member SBAC had yet to issue its ruling on the request of AMA-ESS to participate again in the bidding.

“If the financial bid of AMA is lower, then we will open their bid documents and test their machines,” Rafanan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of

Text message

With the bidding process almost over, allegations of bribery involving the head of the Comelec procurement committee surfaced in media circles.

An anonymous text message sent to journalists covering the dry run of the ballot scanning machines insinuated Rafanan received P2 million in bribe money to help the Dutch consortium.

“Smartmatic machine broke down last night and the Comelec still want to award the deal to the Venezuelan government-owned corporation. Was it because Rafanan got P2 million bribe from Smartmatic? Please pass,” the message read.

The normally calm Rafanan almost lost his cool as he vehemently denied the allegations.

“That is false. That is malicious. I deny that categorically,” a visibly incensed Rafanan told reporters.

“I never received anything. I never asked for anything and I have no intention of receiving or demanding anything.”

Smartmatic denial

The Dutch consortium also dismissed the allegations.

Cesar Flores, Smartmatic’s sales director, also clarified that although the company maintains an office in Venezuela, it is entirely owned by private individuals and that its main holding company is based in The Netherlands.

“We are going through very strict and stringent proceedings of qualification made by the Comelec. We deny any type of wrongdoing,” Flores said.

Rafanan challenged his accusers to show evidence about the purported bribery.

“You are cowards and liars. I’m challenging you to come and show your faces,” he said, raising his voice.

Locsin’s challenge

Rafanan was the subject of an earlier video footage which supposedly showed him aiding a disqualified bidder in signing documents inside a male restroom. Rafanan denied he was the man in the video.

The SBAC chief lashed back at the individuals behind the spread of the “malicious” text messages. He surmised those responsible only wanted to discredit the whole bidding process and tarnish the image of the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.

Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin, who personally inspected how the ballot-scanning machines function, said of the machines and their technology: “Hell, I can’t think of anything better. However, I suppose if I was a master of manual cheating, I’d be very unhappy because I won’t be able to do my business anymore.”

Locsin belittled the claims of some quarters that the machines were vulnerable to hacking and tampering.

“I challenge any of them. I give them 50 years to do it, to hack into an ATM (automated teller machine). None of these idiots in Congress who talk about ‘garbage in, garbage out’ can even hack into their computers,” he said.

When asked if holding automated elections next year was possible, he said: “Absolutely, as I said here repeatedly.”

“If an asteroid hits the earth, we don’t know. Let us hope an asteroid does not hit the earth,” he jested.



Register Now!

29 05 2009

First Time Voters NetworkFlyer/Poster Study by Harmond Marte, UP Diliman

Magparehistro! Bumoto! May Pag-asa Pa!

29 05 2009

Poster Study by Jeff Diliman, UP Diliman

Magparehistro! Bumoto! May Pag-asa Pa!

Register. Vote. Transform.

28 05 2009

Poster Study by Nando Jamolin

Excited, Anxious First-Time Voters

24 05 2009

First Published Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Mindanao Explainer

first_time_voters_sweet_cawicaanExcited, anxious: Teenagers Cezar Anthony Valencia, left, and Arvin Jasper Mañalac register to become first-time voters in 2010. (Photo by Sweet Cawicaan)

BARAS, Rizal (Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project / May 20, 2009) – Seventeen-year-old cousins Achilles Jerome Mañalac and Cezar Valencia are excited. Before the year ends, both of them will turn 18 and just like all of their age, they are looking forward to the benefits of adulthood – including the right to vote.

Achilles Jerome and Valencia are among the estimated 1.9 million first-time voters turning 18 in time for the May 2010 national and local elections, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Valencia, who celebrates his birthday on November, registered last week in the local Comelec office alongside with Achilles Jerome’s older brother, Arvin Jasper. Achilles Jerome says he will register in the next few days.

Mixed emotions

“I am very excited about the prospect of voting,” says 19-year-old Arvin Jasper. “So much is at stake next May – because we will choose leaders from the president down to the kagawad (village councilors).”

Another first-time voter Mariano Casaclang III, 20, is just as excited.

“I know that I can make a difference by exercising my right to vote,” Casaclang says.

But alongside demonstrable excitement is a similar wariness.

“I don’t know what the candidates can really do for the country,” adds Achilles Jerome.

Prized right

For many Filipinos, the right to suffrage is highly-prized. In theory at least and baring any irregularities, everybody becomes equal on Election Day regardless of education, status, age, sex, religious, political and other beliefs.

The people in Baras seem particularly keen on elections. Baras is one of the smaller towns in the province of Rizal. Occupying 8,492.64 hectares and is located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains and its funnel-like shape dips into Laguna de Bay.

“The town registered a 74 percent voter turnout in the last May 2007 elections,” according to Joseleo Tibay, Baras’ assistant election officer.

Officials are also expecting a high voter turnout next year.

As of April 20 this year, Comelec has registered a total of 16,511 voters from the 10 local barangays (Concepcion, Evangelista, Mabini, Pinugay, Rizal, San Jose, San Juan, San Miguel, San Salvador and Santiago). This figure is 52.4 percent of the town’s population of 31,524 based on the National Statistics Office’s 2007 Census.

Comelec records show 555 new registrations since January 19 this year.

Baras’ former election officer, Yolanda Rio, said Comelec is expecting another thousand or so new registrations before October 31, the last day first-time voters can ensure they get on the electoral roll.

Youth power

The local Comelec does not have records of youth voters. Nor does the Municipal Planning and Development Council have updated data on age demographics – but based on the 1995 census, the town’s population is relatively young— 42.2 percent of the total population or 8,461 people were between 15 to 39 years old.

And it is much more than likely this has increased – probably substantially since then.

Nationally speaking, the First Time Voters Network said roughly 60 percent of the 2010 electorate will come from the age bracket of 18 to 40 years old.

The national Comelec earlier this month indicated 2010 would see around nine million new voters joint the electorate —a very sizeable audience which many politicians acknowledge can hardly be ignored.

All four first-time voters we spoke to suggested that the youth vote could help to reshape Philippine politics.

Apathetic about elections

Equally however, they suggested that a sizeable percentage of the young are indifferent about voting and think it will change nothing.

One of these is Joanne Peñaranda, 23, who has not voted—nor registered—despite having been eligible for the past two elections, in 2004 and 2007.

“Don’t get me wrong: I want to exercise my right – I just think it will be useless,” she says.

Peñaranda said she has been disillusioned of the elections because most of the candidates lack experience, capability and political will. She also questioned the morality and stature of those who put themselves forward for either local or national office.

“Politicians are all the same. Corruption remains rampant. Paulit-ulit na lang (It is a cycle). And then there is overwhelming problem with vote buying.”

Vote buying issues

Casaclang says he heard about vote buying here back in 2007. So too did assistant local election official Tibay. The local Comelec office however says it did not receive any complaint about it.

“Not reporting vote buying activities is understandable because people fear for their safety if they do so,” suggests Arvin Jasper.

A source who refused to be named told us how some of her relatives were offered PhP 500 (USD 11) each in exchange for their votes at the last election. She said she didn’t know who to be more angry with – the person who offered the money –or those of her relatives who accepted it.

Many observers are increasingly saying that corruption and vote buying will only end when people on all sides refuse to become complicit to it regardless of the scale. Some say offers of vote buying should immediately encourage those approached to support the other candidates in clear protest at the attempts to subvert the democratic process

Worthy candidates

“Those planning to run in next year’s election should have concrete platforms for economic development. Providing jobs for people must be a priority,” says Casaclang.

“And on local issues, I think officials have to be stricter in implementing the law. Even though crime rate is low in this area, there have been instances of gang fighting with drunken teenage members,” he says.

Valencia meanwhile says the country’s new leaders should be “pro-poor.” They should also serve as the “voice of youth.”

Call for youth voters

“I still believe the youth is the hope of our country and we should encourage them all to become active and to exercise their rights,” he says.

Tibay advised all new voters to go to the local Comelec offices to register –making sure to bring with them a valid ID.

All four first time voters agreed that attending local miting de avance and watching political rallies and debates will help them choose the best candidates.

According to Arvin Jasper it is wrong to simply vote for somebody because he is a relative or friend or shares the name and is part of a famous political dynasty. Voting for people like that who promise personal help if they get elected is part of the country’s continuing problem with political patronage, he says.

Casaclang adds that those people looking to vote for incumbents should first look to see what they have actually achieved in office before paying any attention to any new promises of action.

Just as the millions of first time voters should be wise in exercising their vote – so politicians whether national or local should be wise not to take anything or anybody for granted. Increasingly, actual ideas, platforms and policies –not mere names– are starting to matter.

(Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project – Sweet Cawicaan. The author is a freelance journalist.)

What I Want from my President (as of now)

22 05 2009

First Published May 17, 2009 at 9:52pm

First Time Voters Network Ning Site

I’ve been reading blogs supporting this or that candidate, hating this or that candidate. And in between the comments about certain presidentiables, the common answers were:

“I don’t want a corrupt president”

“I don’t want another GMA”

“I don’t want a pro-GMA candidate”

“I don’t want Korina Sanchez as first lady”

“I don’t want a trapo”

“I don’t want a merger of church and state”

“I don’t want Erap” (sorry)

Ewan ko kung ako lang, pero marami talaga akong nakikitang “ayoko” or “I don’t want” statements. Hmm.. What do we really want? Some people are branding Mar Roxas the ‘lesser evil’ of the roster. So will it be a victory of the lesser evil (again)? I guess I echo Karl’s statement/question. What is/are our non-negotiable/s?

Karl’s blog got me thinking what I really want from my 2010-2016 president, and I can only come up with one answer so far. I want him to choose his cabinet members based on credibility and competence. No family ties, no utang na loob appointments. If I see someone like GMA appointing Lito Atienza to DENR, you’re off my list.

Did I just rephrase an “I don’t want” statement? Haha. Naman, o!

Anyway, drop your non-negotiables in Karl’s blog! I’m also looking forward to seeing new comments!

Author is Kurt Dion T. Cendana, officer of Ateneo SAnggunian

Notes from my Experience as a Newly-Registered Vote

22 05 2009

First Published May 3, 2009 at 9:30am

First Time Voters’ Network Ning site

Three days ago (Thursday), I went to the Quezon City Hall with Pepi, Cars, Drew and Karla to get myself registered for the 2010 national elections. After a couple of boo-boos, we finally got ourselves registered. Drew and Karla didn’t though (I’ll talk about that later haha).

Now that I’m a registered voter, I’m not being a hypocrite anymore by urging others to do so. And now I can’t just complain by doing nothing; I can vote first, and then if it doesn’t turn out to be a good vote, then I can have the right to complain. (I think this is one of the key points in Ma’am Geoann’s class)

Some thoughts:

* If possible, don’t go when it’s raining, especially if you’re from District 1 or 2.

* If you can, call up the COMELEC Office before you go there just to make sure they’re there. Drew and Karla were supposed to register in the District 4 office, but it turned out that the people manning that office were holding a satellite voters’ registration in Camp Crame. [Sorry guys dinala ko pa kayo!]

* Asking where the line for registration is not enough, ask where the registration line for your DISTRICT is. We made a mistake of asking where registration line was, and ended up falling in line with the District 2 voters. When we reached the window where our IDs will be processed, sabi nila sa kabila raw ang District 3. Wahahaha! Sayang yung 20 minutes namin. Minsan kasi yung iba walang sign kung aling district yung pila, so be careful.

* Kung may pila sa district niyo, huwag kayo masindak. Fall in line like anyone else. Talk to people. What I did was ask the person beside me if we needed to present a birth certificate aside from an official ID. I knew that the answer was no but I just wanted to make sure and at the same time be at ease with the people. One nanay asked me to join her if she gets to the window first. Ang bait ng nanay na yun, pero buti na lang din hindi namin kinuha kasi baka magalit yung mga nasa likod namin. At yun nga, District 2 yung napilahan namin. Hehe.

* Talk to the officers in the registration booth. Sometimes they look masungit but they have a fun side in them. If you’re from Katipunan, I advise you to ask them what you’ll write in the space provide for your address — Katipunan Ave. or C.P. Garcia.

I hope people will register already while it’s still relatively early. October 31, 2009 is the deadline. Just bring a valid ID with your name, address, picture and signature on it. And photocopy it. 🙂

Author is Kurt Dion T. Cendana, an officer of Ateneo Saggunian