Comelec disqualifies all bidders

8 05 2009

By Kristine L. Alave, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:24:00 05/08/2009

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

MANILA, Philippines—All seven bidders in the P11.3-billion poll automation contract have been disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), raising the possibility of manual balloting next year and fears of a grand plan to “steal the elections.”

Ferdinand Rafanan, chair of the Comelec’s special bids and awards (SBAC) committee, said Thursday that the committee would not yet declare a bid failure even though all bid documents had been declared ineligible. He said he expected appeals for reconsideration of the decision.

“This is a bad sign, a sad day for Philippine democracy if we blow this one big chance at modernizing Philippine democracy, making each vote be counted, and each voice heard,” Sen. Richard Gordon said in a statement.

“We hope the government is not insincere in automating the 2010 elections,” said the author of the poll automation law. “We pray, that at the end of the day, it will not appear that the government never really intended to automate the elections.”

“It would be atrocious if everything will turn out as part of a grand plan to once again steal the elections and cheat our people,” Gordon said.

Rafanan said he expected appeals for reconsideration to be resolved by next week.

“Maybe they have some more arguments that we have not heard, additional points we did not see, maybe we omitted some things,” he said.

Problems with subcontractors

Rafanan said he was confident that the appeals process would yield qualified companies.

“We want automation, but of course the election must push through with or without automation,” he said.

Many of the companies were taken off the running in the early stage of the bidding because they failed to submit documents from consortium members.

Some also had problems with their subsidiaries and subcontractors. In some cases, it was revealed that subcontractors would be supplying the hardware and the software of the automated election system, which is illegal.

‘Alternative mode’

Rafanan dismissed observations from bidders that the Comelec was too strict in an ostensible effort to avoid a repetition of the 2004 tender the results of which were subsequently declared void by the Supreme Court.

He also noted that there were companies who were not fully prepared in their documents.

“You can call us strict. I would rather say we abided by the law and the rules as well as the terms of reference,” Rafanan said.

“We abided by the rules even though abiding by the rules deprived us of what we want,” he stressed.

If no winner emerges from the appeals process, the Comelec might have to enter a negotiated bid with the company that has the contract most advantageous to the government, Rafanan said.

“The law allows a negotiated bid as one of alternative mode in case of failure of bidding. But that would be for the en banc to decide,” he explained.

Bidding flaws

On Wednesday night, the SBAC declared ineligible to bid the Israeli-Filipino consortium of Gilat, F.F. Cruz and Co. Inc. and Filipinas Systems Inc. when it ruled that the contracts they submitted were not from consortium members.

Earlier that day, it disqualified Syrex Incorporation/Amalgamated Metro Philippines/Anishin Inc.; and AMA Group of Companies/Election System Software (ES&S). Syrex did not submit a certificate of registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission, while AMA/ES&S lacked a license to import.

Sequoia Voting Systems/Universal Storefront Services and Smartmatic/Total Information Management Corp. were disqualified on Tuesday.

The consortia of Avante International/Canon Marketing Phils./Netnode Technologies/DB Vizards/Creative Point and Indra Sistemas/Strategic Holdings Inc./Hart Intercivic were excluded by the panel on Monday.

According to the SBAC, Indra did not have the proper ISO certificate, while Avante failed to submit documents on its previous IT contracts.

Hopes move not whimsical

Gordon said he hoped that disqualification was “valid and justifiable and not whimsical and capricious.”

“We have to be able to show our people and the world that we can follow our own laws. A law has already been passed and the system has already been tried and tested, the senator said, referring to last year’s elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The automation of the electoral process is included in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 10-point agenda which will be implemented through the use of the latest technology for voting, counting, canvassing and transmission of election results in a move to make polls fraud-free.

In a separate statement, Sen. Loren Legarda said the Comelec had no choice but to strictly enforce the bidding rules on the automation of the 2010 elections.

“Just the same, a failure of the bidding process will be seen by many, justified or not, as being part of a grand design by the administration to still use the manual tabulation of ballots,” Legarda said.

Cynical citizens

“Of course, the Comelec will maintain its independence from Malacañang but people have a mind of their own to draw their own conclusions on how the bidding is progressing.”

Poll cheaters have already perfected their craft when it comes to manual counting of votes, thus no one can blame the people if they would insist on an automated poll for next year, Legarda said.

“A negotiated contract for poll automation following a failure of the bidding process is being considered by Comelec, but it remains to be seen whether that would be acceptable to our already cynical countrymen,” she said.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

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