Press Release
May 12, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the suspension of the law governing the bidding of the contracts to automate the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would need the approval of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Pimentel said that while he has no objection to the decision of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Electoral System to waive the bidding requirements under the Government Procurement Reform Law to speed up the awarding of the automation project, such move will be valid only if accompanied by a resolution passed by both chambers of Congress.

"These requirements could not be suspended by a mere approval or recommendation of the oversight committee. There should be a law to authorize the suspension," he said.

The waiving of the requirements was approved by the oversight committee, jointly chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon and Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr., in view of the failure of the competitive bidding for the P867.3 million automation of the ARMM polls.

In effect, the Commission on Elections has been authorized to award the automation project through negotiated contracts. By virtue of this authorization, the Comelec awarded a P525 million contract to one of the bidders, Smartmatic, to install a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system in Maguindanao.

The poll automation in the five other ARMM provinces -- Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi -- will be covered by separate contracts still to be negotiated by Comelec.

Pimentel urged Sen. Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws, and Rep. Locsin, chairman of the House committee on electoral suffrage and reforms, to immediately cause the filing of such resolution so that it can be approved by both chambers of Congress as early as possible.

He said the automation of the ARMM elections will enable the Comelec to test the accuracy and efficiency of the automated voting and counting machines, electronic transmission and other facilities, aside from preventing electoral fraud that has been the bane of electoral exercises in the Muslim provinces.

"Unless we use the automated election system in an actual election, we will not be able to find out its various features, as well as its possible defects," Pimentel said.

He added that the performance of the poll automation will be the key to the smooth and successful automation of a bigger electoral undertaking -- the 2010 presidential, congressional and local elections.

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