Press Release
August 24, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said he disagrees with the Senate's position asking the High Court to reject the petition against Comelec's awarding of the contract to Smartmatic-TIM.

"With due respect to Senate President Enrile, I submit that pilot testing of these machines should be done in-country to make sure that they can function effectively and efficiently given our conditions," said the 39-year old lawmaker, who co-chairs the congressional oversight committee on the automation of the 2010 elections.

"The successful use of an automated counting machine in another country cannot sufficiently validate usability in our country. Besides, this is a customized version that the winning bidder is using for the first time," he said.

In a comment-in-intervention, the Senate has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit filed by concerned citizens to void the P7.2 billion contract because the Comelec violated the poll automation law by failing to conduct pilot testing of the counting machines to be used in the 2010 elections.

The Smartmatic -TIM group has said it had undertaken a similar project in Venezuela from 2008 to 2009 to justify its argument that the machines to be used had demonstrated its capability and success in a foreign electoral exercise.

The Comelec will use 82,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines which will be used for the first time in the country. Under Section 6 of RA 9369, the machines should be pilot tested in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

"Time and time again, I have welcomed full automation of our electoral process. But we must deliberately calibrate its implementation in accordance with the law, and especially because of the particular set of circumstance that we have at this time," he said.

At the same time, Escudero called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to report on the progress of the election automation project even as it awaits the decision of the Supreme Court on the petition.

"It's been sometime since we've heard from the Comelec about the state of preparations for the 2010 elections," Escudero said. "Regardless of the forthcoming SC decision, the Comelec must regularly inform the people on the current status of the project," he added.

He also said that the Comelec must ensure that should the SC decide against the deal, then the poll body should be able to shift to partial automation or even return to manual counting. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision on the issue by September.

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