Petition filed at SC to stop bidding of voting machines for 2016 polls

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Former Bureau of Immigration (BI) commissioner Homobono Adaza is asking the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from proceeding with next week’s bidding for the purchase of automated voting machines for use in the 2016 elections.

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In a 19-page petition, Adaza, together with co-petitioner Jonathan Sinel, said that the bidding should not proceed until several important issues are first resolved pertaining to the 2010 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines supplier Smartmatic-TIM.

Likewise, Adaza also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) with writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the Comelec from enforcing its Oct. 21, 2014 resolution, which approved the P2.5-billion budget for the procurement of optimal mark reader (OMR) and direct recording electronic (DRE) machines.

“The aforesaid resolution and the scheduled public bidding have not taken into consideration the existence of unresolved issues, which need final resolution before any such public bidding involving the aforementioned PCOS machines and new electoral system machines,” the petition said.

It said that these “unresolved issues” included the “illegality” of Comelec’s contract with Smartmatic-TIM for the conduct of the 2010 national and local polls, and the Comelec’s “failure to comply with minimum system capabilities.”

The petition said that Smartmatic-TIM was illegally awarded the 2010 automated election systems (AES) contract even if the firm did not comply with the requirement provided for in Section 12 of Republic Act No. 9369, or the ?Election Automation Law?, which specifically states that the system procured for the 2010 and succeeding elections “must have demonstrated capability and has been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.”

Among others, it cited the Comelec’s move to disable the voter verification feature, failure to make the source code immediately available to political parties and interested groups for testing, and failure to comply with the digital signature requirement.

The petition said that because of these reasons, Smartmatic-TIM “should be summarily excluded from the bidding.”

It also said that before proceeding with the public bidding for the PCOS machines and AES for use in the 2016 polls, the Comelec should first conduct an inventory and technical and forensic testing of the over 80,000 PCOS machines procured for the 2010 elections.

The petition further said that the Comelec’s failure to do this constituted grave abuse of discretion.

“Considering that many of these PCOS machines remain unaccounted for and considering further that the remaining PCOS machines are now stored in a warehouse without any configuration facilities, there is no way to determine how many are still usable or can still be repaired,? it said.

?Without making the inventory and desired tests, it is absolutely a grave abuse of power for respondent Comelec to disburse billions of pesos and conduct public bidding for acquisition of voting machines which may not be necessary and will involve wastage of billions of pesos,” the petition said. — PNA

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