Press Release
August 31, 2011

After Comelec budget hearing

Q: Are we going to buy the PCOS machines?

Drilon: That is a matter for the Comelec to decide. However, it is our view that the election, if one takes place, in the ARMM, must be automated. The committee takes the position that the policy has been set. In RA 8436 and RA 9369, the ARMM election must be automated. The Comelec cannot change this policy and resort to manual. The policy debate is over. Congress is the policy-making body and therefore there is no choice. The opinion of some of the members of the commission, to the contrary notwithstanding, the Comelec cannot have a manual election in the ARMM. That's the view of the committee.

Q: Are we not buying obsolete machines?

Drilon: That is a matter for the Comelec to decide what kind of machines to use.

Q: On unobligated funds.

Drilon: P5.307 billion.

Q: Since 2004 or 2010 lang?

Drilon: 2010.

Q: Submissions by Comelec required by committee.

Drilon: We have requested the Comelec to submit a number of documents. We asked the Comelec to comment on the proposal of Cong. Tomas Osmena that the voter's ID be the basis of the document that must be presented to the bank for the AFP personnel to draw their salary. While this is a proposed special provision in the DND budget, it would necessarily involve the Comelec because it is the biometric system that is adopted by the Comelec for registration of voters that will be used as a basis for the disbursement of salaries by the DND. We have asked the Comelec to comment on this because it would depend on the ability of Comelec to complete the biometric system which at this point covers only about 60% of the total registered voters.

Q: Sir did you appear as counsel for Smartmatic?

Drilon: No I did not. I was the general counsel of the law firm which was the lawyer of Smartmatic. That is on record. I made that statement as part of my obligation to make a full disclosure. I have retired from the law firm as of the end of December.

Q: Do you have a timeline for the submissions by Comelec?

Drilon: We have requested within a reasonable period not to exceed 2 weeks.

Brillantes: 15 days sir.

Q: What would the Comelec do with the unobligated funds?

Drilon: The Comelec has fiscal autonomy. They can use this for any purpose that they would deem necessary and appropriate, within the bounds of the law.

Q: Can they use that to buy the machines?

Drilon: They can use that for anything.

Q: Will that be enough for the 82,000 machines?

Drilon: There is an appropriation of P7 billion under their proposed budget. Whether or not that is sufficient, what machines they would purchase is a matter that the Comelec will have to decide.

Q: What is the Comelec's inclination on the option to buy PCOS machines?

Brillantes: Sabi ko nga we're a collegial body. My inclination, if the offer to extend the offer to purchase is given, we would like to exercise that, I would like to exercise that because mura eh. Tested na ang Smartmatic, tested na ang PCOS. The only problem is that we now have a new steering committee where Commissioner Gus Lagman is a member and he has been pushing for a new technology. So diyan kami nagkakaroon ng conflict pero if we will go automated for the ARMM election... because ang purpose nun gagawin sana ang ARMM election as a testing for the 2013. Kung maganda ang Smartmatic sa ARMM then that would be good enough for the 2013. But it did not push through. So ngayon pumasok na si Commissioenr Lagman and he is proposing a new technology--a different kind of a prototype machine more or less used also in the precinct level pero iba lang na technology. Kasi masyadong marami raw deficiencies at glitches which are being corrected already by Smartmatic.

Q: Did any offer of a discount if it were to be sold?

Brillantes: Discounted na yon. They will just extend the option to purchase, kasi talagang 30% na lang ang babayaran eh. We paid already in 2010 the 70%. If we exercise the option to purchase my feeling is that they will be more than willing to give it to us because what they will do to the machines if we don't buy now? There are 80,000 machines there. They've been saying they are selling it outside pero hindi naman siguro ganun kadali yon.

Q: That 30% is equivalent to how much?

Brillantes: P1.6 billion. Pero we're not really pushing that hard for Smartmatic kasi baka naman lumaki ang ulo nila. This will go into a public bidding. Tingnan natin. Pero if Smartmatic participates, chances are na sila ang pinakamababa, if they can offer it for 30%.

Q: inaudible

Brillantes: Hindi pa. They have been offering us. Binibigyan nila kami ng extension pero hindi naming tinatanggap.

Drilon: The option to purchase has already expired. It has to be reinstated. As we talk today, the option to purchase has expired.

Brillantes: In several instances, kagaya ng sa ARMM, ang Smartmatic, even if it has expired, sumulat sa amin that they are willing to extend it up to March, up to June if we are going to purchase 4,000 machines for the ARMM elections. Pero hindi namin sinasagot yon. Basta sila lang ang nag-o-offer.

Q: Ano pa ang ibang documents for Comelec to submit?

Drilon: We just required certain detailed explanation of the MOOE, particularly on a number of items for professional services.

Q: Ano ang chance na ma-restore yung hinihingi nilang budget?

Drilon: We will look into that because firstly, there is even P5 billion unobligated funds which are with the Comelec. We will review all of this. But in fairness, they are not asking for reinstatement of the total P5 billion. I think the P51 million for overseas absentee voting which was allegedly transferred to the DFA and another P164 million for unfilled positions. The unfilled positions, if I recall correctly and subject to verification, could be in the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund. Under the setup, this is automatically released once the position is filled up.

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