SC nullifies Comelec?s extended contract for refurbished PCOS machines

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BAGUIO CITY — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, April 21, declared null and void the controversial extended warranty contract between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic-Technology Information Management Corporation (Smartmatic-TIM) for the refurbishment of old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines , dubbed as a “midnight deal” by critics.

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In a press conference, SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief and spokesman Theodore O. Te said the SC, in en banc session, granted the petitions filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Automated Elections Systems (AES) Watch, Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman.

The SC resolved the consolidated petitions for certiorari and prohibition challenging Comelec Resolution No. 9922 dated Dec. 23, 2014, which approved a direct contracting arrangement with respondent Smarmatic-TIM for the diagnostics, maintenance, repair and replacement of the Comelec’s PCOS machines, as well as the extended warranty program dated Jan. 30, 2015.

Te said that the decisive issue in these cases is whether or not the Comelec gravely abused its discretion in issuing Resolution No. 9922 and in subsequently entering into the extended warranty contract with Smarmatic-TIM.

The SC ruled that the Comelec failed to justify its resort to direct contracting with Smartmatic-TIM. The High Court said its claims of impracticality were not supported by independently verifiable data and its perceived “warranty extension” is, in, reality, a circumvention of the procurement law.

“It is clear that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion and, thus, its Resolution No. 9922 and the Extended Warranty Program (Part 1) should be stricken down and, necessarily, all amounts paid to Smartmatic-TIM pursuant to said contract, if any, being public funds should be returned to the government,” the SC said.

The petitioners argued that the warranty contract amounting to P268 million violates the existing Republic Act No. 9184, or the “Government Procurement Law”.

They claimed it appears that the Comelec entered into “direct contracting” and violated the requirement for competitive bidding.

The refurbishment of the 82,000 PCOS machines started on March 18, 2015.

However, such a refurbishment was stopped by the SC through a temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued on March 24, 2015. — PNA

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