Comelec faces lawsuit

DESPITE the ruling of the Supreme Court on the matter, Smartmatic - Total Information Management Corp. threatened to sue the Commission on Elections if it bids out P1.2-billion contract to refurbish the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines it sold to the government in 2013.

“The Comelec could be held liable for breach of intellectual property clauses stipulated in their option to purchase contract in 2013,” Smartmatic-TIM lawyer Ruby Yusi said in a statement.

Yusi said the P1.8 billion paid by the Comelec to purchase the machines from Smartmatic covers only the units themselves, and not the entire technology.

Smartmatic president for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores had repeatedly said they owned the intellectual property rights to the PCOS machines and it will sue Comelec if it gives the contract to other companies and the “information” on the PCOS machines is revealed in the process.

Smartmatic issued the statement even after the Supreme Court declined to issue a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the Comelec to proceed with the bidding for the refurbishment contract.

Instead, the SC ordered the Comelec and Smartmatic to comment on the petition of former assemblyman Homobono Adaza who is asking the high court to disqualify Smartmatic from Comelec contract auctions.

But former national treasurer Leonor Briones also threatened to sue the Comelec if it allows Smartmatic to refurbish what she described as “useless” PCOS machines that were used in the last elections because they have become obsolete.

Briones said the PCOS, like computers, are considered to have zero value three years after it has been first used and can no longer be repaired.

Since the PCOS were used in the 2010 elections, she said, they are now over three years old and can no longer be repaired despite the claim of Smartmatic that the government would benefit if the contract was awarded to Smartmatic because it had exclusive rights over the voting machines’ parts.

In addition, the Comelec would not have to seek a re-certification if new software were needed for some of the parts, according to Smartmatic president for Asia Cesar Flores.

Flores argued that since Smartmatic had the exclusive rights over the machines, it had sole authority to refurbish the equipment for the 2016 presidential elections.

But Briones she supports the moves to blacklist Smartmatic and put an end to its involvement in any other election-related activities in the country.

Aside from the contract to repair the 80,000 PCOS machines, Smartmatic is also bidding for another contract to supply 23,000 additional PCOS machines for the 2016 elections as well as a supply contract  for the 2016 polls’  election management system and Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines.

The Comelec bids and awards committee allowed Smartmatic to bid for the project after it disqualified the Scytl Secured Electronic Voting and Vibal Group Inc. joint venture, but the Scytl-Vibal can still ask the Comelec to reconsider.

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