‘RP ill-prepared for poll automation’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 1, 2009

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya , Philippines  – Sen. Francis Escudero said the country appears to be ill prepared for full automation with only a little over a year before the synchronized national and local elections.

Escudero said even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had unwittingly shown “signs of ignorance and ineptness” when it suddenly decided to allow more bidders.

He also raised fears that the 2010 computerized polls would be rigged because of reports that hackers broke into the computers of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“If we can’t even guard the State’s closely guarded secrets at the DFA, what makes us think that we can ensure the credibility of the elections when we automate it? What is our guarantee that it cannot be hacked? It could just be a matter of pushing the right buttons in order to win an election,” said Escudero, chairman of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated election system.

To prevent this from happening, he said the congressional oversight committee will monitor the poll body’s implementation of automated election system every step of the way, stressing that next year’s elections could be the country’s last hope for government reforms.

Meanwhile, the Comelec yesterday stood by the Special Bids and Awards Committee’s (SBAC’s) move to change the eligibility requirement for bidders of the P11.2-billion automation contract.

In a resolution, the Comelec concurred with the SBAC in its decision to drop the initial requirement that bidders must have previously secured a single contract amounting to at least 50 percent of the automation budget.

“Imposing the same will likely result in a monopoly that will defeat the purpose of public bidding,” states the resolution, signed by Comelec Chairman Jose Melo and commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, Leonardo Leonida, Lucenito Tagle, Armando Velasco and Elias Yusoph.

The Comelec supported SBAC’s new requirement that a prospective bidder “should have completed at least three similar contracts and the aggregate contract amounts should be equivalent to at least 50 percent of the budget.”

The largest of these contracts must be equivalent to at least 25 percent of the automation budget.

There is a requirement that a prospective bidder must have secured such contracts within three years prior to the Comelec’s published advertisement of its “invitation to apply for eligibility.”

Last Friday, SBAC held a pre-bid conference among the 10 companies that have shown interest in participating in the bidding by buying the terms of reference (TOR) for $20,000 or P1 million. – Charlie Lagasca with Sheila Crisostomo

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