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Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM told to comment on pleas opposing P1.8-B purchase deal

BAGUIO CITY - The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Commission on Elections to comment on two more petitions seeking to nullify the P1.8-billion contract it entered into with Smartmatic-TIM for the purchase of 82,000 counting machines for the 2013 midterm elections.   Dutch firm Smartmatic and its local partner Total Information Management Corp (Smartmatic-TIM) was also told to comment on the matter.
In a chance interview with reporters here, SC spokesman and court administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the high court gave the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM 10 days to respond to the separate petitions filed by the Automated Election System (AES) and the  the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S).
AES is led by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. while S4S is led by by Ma. Linda Montayre, Ramon Pedrosa, Benjamin Paulino Sr., Evelyn Coronel, and Nelson Montayre.
"The petition by S4S and the other petition filed  by former VP Guingona... they were asking for TRO but the court has not yet acted on the prayer for TRO," Marquez said.
"The SC would like first to get comments from the respondents. Thereafter, the SC will comment on the prayer for TRO," he added.
In AES' petition, the group pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the contract signed on March 30.
Aside from the purchase of 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, the contract also includes the consolidation and canvassing system of Smartmatic-TIM at no cost to the Comelec.
AES said the contract should be cancelled because the Comelec "committed grave abuse of discretion in opting to buy the PCOS machines and allied paraphernalia of Smartmatic for use in the approaching 2013 elections, despite incontrovertible findings of the glitches, malfunctions, bugs, and defects of the same."
AES said the contract between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM would "cause grave and irreparable injury to the petitioners and the entire Filipino people, as well as the political and economic future and integrity of this country."
Guingona also said the Comelec should have conducted a public bidding as provided under Republic Act 9184 or the  Government Procurement Reform Act, instead of availing itself of the "option to purchase" the PCOS machines.
In a recent Senate hearing, Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes defended the poll body’s decision.
“The Comelec is no longer in the level of discussing the glitches. We’re now discussing enhancements,” Brillantes said.
Smartmatic-TIM, for its part, insisted that the identified "glitches" do not relate to the PCOS machines.
Last week, the high court had already asked for a formal comment of the group of  Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, former Marawi City Mayor Omar Ali, and former Quezon City Rep. Mary Anne Susano, who were the first petitioners seeking a similar move to strike down the billion-peso poll contract. — Mark Merueñas/RSJ/KBK, GMA News