Press Release
May 5, 2009

Chiz blasts Comelec for bending rules again

More reason to doubt capability to handle poll automation

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said there is more reason to doubt the Comelec's capability to implement poll automation when it bent the bid rules for the P11.3 billion contract by allowing three US companies to submit unaudited financial statements.

"How can one subscribe and attest correctness to a financial statement while it did not undergo proper audit?"

"This is the third time that the Comelec has trifled with its rules. First they changed the terms of reference, and then they moved the date of bidding. It alarmingly continues with its ad hoc ways," he said.

"It may be likened to the boy who cried wolf. But there is now more reason to doubt the Comelec's capability to implement the full automation of the electoral process in 2010. I'd rather be proven wrong than right," said Escudero, who chairs the congressional oversight committee on poll automation.

The senator identified the US firms as Hart Intercivic USA, Sequoia Voting Systems (SVS) and Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) which failed to submit income tax returns for 2008.

"The excuse was that it is normal for American companies to ask for an automatic extension from the US government and that's why they asked for special consideration," Escudero said.

Despite the opposition made by independent observers from the Office of the Ombudsman and the Transparency and Accountability, Inc., the poll body's Special Bid and Awards Committee (SBAC) allowed the three US firms to submit instead a notarized unaudited financial statement by May 10, he said.

Apart from the income tax return, the bidders are required to submit a business permit, quarterly value added tax return, and a contract to publish bid proposal.

The Comelec opened last Monday the bid offers of seven firms for the single, biggest government project this year. It is expected to announce the winning bidder by May 23.

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