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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chiz warns Comelec of negotiating poll contract

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday warned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the dangers of entering into a "negotiated contract" on the nationwide poll automation project even as he renewed his call for its implementation only in key areas.


"A negotiated contract does not necessarily consider the cheapest, the best and most responsible offer. There is obviously less transparency in the process," said Escudero, who heads the Senate oversight committee on poll automation.


He issued the warning after the Comelec said it could enter into a "negotiated contract…as a last recourse" after it rejected all seven bids for the P11.3-billion project.


Escuedero also criticized the poll body for not heeding suggestions earlier on to change the terms of reference based on industry practices.


"They did not listen. They virtually invented some of the provisions of the TOR which has resulted in the disqualification of all bidders. Now we are faced with the option of negotiating the biggest, single government contract with one bidder," Escudero said.


At the same time, he renewed his call for the implementation of automation only in key areas as provided for in the automation law.


"However disconcerting it may be, the failure of bidding gives everyone an opportunity to revisit the plan for full automation," he said. "The Comelec must now seriously look at implementing poll automation on a limited scale."


Escudero said the poll body can undertake the alternative automation plan in two highly-urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.


He also cited concerns expressed by former Comelec chair Christian Monsod about the capability of the Comelec in undertaking full automation nationwide for the 2010 elections.


Monsod has advocated for partial automation because "there could be many possible problems that could happen in a one-step full-pledged nationwide automated election right away."


"Prudence dictates that we implement this unprecedented undertaking in a rational, transparent, and efficient manner," Escudero said.


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