MANILA – Senator Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel Jr. is convinced that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) got a better deal with technology provider Smartmatic to repair the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines after negotiation brought down further the contract price from PhP300 million to PhP240 million.
”I think through negotiation we got a better deal but as to whether it is legal to negotiate, then that is the question before the courts,” Pimentel told the media after the joint Congressional oversight committee on the automated election system public hearing on Thursday.
The original negotiated contract, described by the critics as ‘midnight deal’ has been questioned before the Supreme Court (SC).
”I repeat, as far as the legality of the negotiated contract, let us leave that for the courts to determine,” Pimentel said.
During the hearing held at the Senate Session Hall, former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said they did not only lower the deal but also widened the scope of the repair of the 2,700 of the 81,000 PCOS machines used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
”Instead of minor repair, the Smartmatic will do major repairs of the machines,” Brillantes told the joint congressional panel.
Brillantes clarified also that it was not a midnight deal “because we have been discussing this (repair of PCOS) as early as February of 2014.”
”It (the contract) was submitted by October but legal opinion delayed the process for two more months,” Brillantes, who retired last Feb. 2, said.
Based on the proposal by Smartmatic, the Comelec has to pay PhP300 million for diagnostic alone of the PCOS machines and additional PhP900 million for major repair.
”The original contract is worth PhP1.2 billion, excluding the PhP800 million for upgrading but we’re not stupid here. Now we reduced it further to PhP240 million,” Brillantes said.
Brillantes said the Comelec came out with the Resolution No. 992 in December after they finally agreed that the repair of the PCOS machines need not to go through public bidding.
The lack of public bidding was also the subject of the petition by the election watchdogs before the SC to stop the Comelec-Smartmatic deal.
”The resolution was only clarificatory. It was not the final contract. If the SC will say the resolution is null and void, so the contract is also null and void, that’s okay. Let’s go back to zero,” Brillantes said.