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SC orders Comelec to answer petitions vs biddings to refurbish PCOS, lease of OMR.

The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to answer in 10 days two petitions that sought to stop the parallel biddings for the refurbishment of the existing Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the lease of new Optical Mark Reader (OMR) units, and the realignment of the capital outlay requirement for the 2016 national and local elections (NLE).

In a resolution issued after a full court session, the SC also directed the Comelec to comment on the pleas for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) contained in the two petitions.

Challenged in the petition filed by a group led by Archbishop Rolando J. Tirona was Comelec Resolution No. 15-0444 which cancelled the lease of Election Management System (EMS) and Precinct-Based Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) for P32 million; the procurement of Voter Verification System for P727 million; and the realignment of the unobligated balances from its 2014 Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for Sangguniang Kabataan Elections and SK registration for its capital outlay requirement for 2016.

The petition filed by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) challenged Resolution Nos. 15-0355 and 15-0359 which approved the conduct of parallel bidding for the refurbishment of PCOS machines and new OMR units with a total budget of P14 billion, and the creation of two separate special bids and awards committee (SBAC) to supervise the process, respectively.

CenPEG told the SC that the two resolutions are unconstitutional and have no legal basis under Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA).

"Parallel bidding is a failed experiment because it doomed the bidding for the refurbishment of the PCOS machines, and failed to protect the public interest by giving the public the best possible advantages thru open competition," the group said.

It pointed out that "not a single basis or precedence exists to support the conduct of simultaneous public bidding by the Comelec SBACs."

It stressed that parallel bidding has no legal basis because the capital outlay allotment of the Comelec for the 2016 NLE preparatory activities is only P11.43 billion while the procurement of 93,977 new OMR units would exceed the legally authorized expenditure for the said purpose by over P1billion

"Suffice it to stress that if permitted, the Commission will be allowed not only to undermine Congress' spending power but more importantly, to wreak havoc to the budget, the system, as well as desecrate the Fundamental Law of the land," it said.

It added that it is "illogical" for the Comelec to even consider procuring new OMR since there are still existing PCOS machines in its inventory.

At the same time, CenPEG asked the SC to compel the Comelec to ensure that the Automated Elections System to be used in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections meets the minimum system capabilities and other safeguards under Republic Act 8436 or the Automated Election System Act, and to initiate legal action against PCOS provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TTIM) Corporation for damages for reneging its training obligation under the 2009 request for proposal.

The realignment of the capital outlay requirement for the 2016 NLE under Resolution No. 15-0444 which was described as null and void in the petition filed by Archbishop Tirona and his group.

"It is crystal clear that the intention of the Commission en banc in realigning the capital outlay requirement of the 2016 NLE as well as in juggling several budgetary items, namely, those for the SK (Sangguniang Kabataan), the voter verification system (VVS) project, a vital security feature of the AES, the DRE (Direct Recording Electronic), and the election management system (EMS), another vital component of the elections, amounting to billions of pesos was to meet the funding requirement for the lease... of a total of 93,977 new OMR units, in violation of the Constitution, the 2015 GAA, and the ruling of the Supreme Court in Araullo...," the group said.

It pointed out that the 2015 GAA has no item that authorizes the Comelec to incur obligation for the procurement new OMR units.

Earlier, the Comelec-SBAC1 had announced that Smartmatic-TIM submitted the lowest bid of P6.28 billion for the P7.8 billion contract for the supply of the 70,977 OMR units.

The Comelec-SBAC2, on the other hand, had declared a failure of bidding for the P2.07 billion contract for the repair and refurbishment of more than 80,000 existing PCOS machines that are still being considered for use in next year's elections, after no companies submitted an offer for the project.

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PCOS, Precinct Count Optical Scan --MB file photo
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Title Annotation:Latest News
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jul 14, 2015
Words:768
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