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Comelec chief: Money, control root of feud between Smartmatic, partner

June 30, 2009 6:12pm
Money turned out to be the root of a feud between the partners in a consortium that bagged the P11.3-billion contract to automate the 2010 elections.

Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo said representatives from Smartmatic and its Filipino partner Total Information Management (TIM) met at the Comelec office Tuesday.

"In the meeting just held at the conference room, they aired each other's sentiments. It all boiled down to control of the money," Melo told reporters after the meeting.

The falling out between Smartmatic and TIM endangered ongoing preparations to automate next year's elections.

Melo said the Comelec remained firm in giving both firms until Friday to patch up their differences.

"We emphasized to them there was an agreement ... We (told them, we) will give you until Friday or earlier for you to come up with whatever you can," he said.

In the meantime, he said the Comelec will follow the policy of "omerta" (silence) before Friday, to prevent speculations the Comelec is favoring one firm over another.

"We imposed this also on ourselves. Omerta, no talk muna sa media (Omerta, no talk to the media first)," he said.

He said both Smartmatic and TIM "want to go through with the project definitely" because this will reflect on their reputations, "one way or the other."

On Monday, Melo announced that TIM president Jose Antunez told him that TIM was pulling out of the project, citing irreconcilable differences with Smartmatic.

Melo then suspended the contract negotiations with Smartmatic-TIM for its failure to submit its joint venture incorporation papers. “Kapag wala pa [If they will fail to submit it] by Friday we may call off the whole thing because it would be too late."

In Tuesday’s interview, Melo asked for public understanding about the situation.

"Ginawa namin lahat ng kung ano’ng magagawa namin. Ang preparation namin buong-buo, ready-ng ready na, (tapos) biglang umurong [We did all that we can. Our preparations were already coming full circle, and then TIM backed out]," he lamented. - GMANews.TV