Monday, July 6, 2009

Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) Deal

By Romy Teruel

All is well that ends well? It should be but not yet in the case of Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) deal.  While they have ironed out disagreements and vowed to deliver the automation machines for the 2010 elections, it is only the beginning of the whole process and not the end of it.  Therefore it cannot yet be described as an end ending well. 

Nevertheless hope is there again for poll reforms that will give us leaders who were really elected by the voters and not leaders who, although proclaimed as elected, carried with them charges of poll cheating if not manipulation of election results. 

For years we only dreamed of having election winners who were voted by the people without being accused of having cheated or manipulated election results. The bidding for the supply of poll automation machines was what everybody hoped would give them just that. When the award was made to Smartmatic-TIM, almost everybody heaved a sigh of relief.  But the last sigh of relief was cut short by the reported withdrawal of TIM from their partnership with Smartmatic for undisclosed differences. 

This sparked speculations about efforts to derail and sabotage the automation so that cheaters can continue to ply their trade during the next elections.  It also fuelled the possibility of no elections for lack of funds to revert to manual counting of votes.  Remember most of the funds was earmarked for the poll automation and a return to manual counting will need another act of Congress to appropriate funds for printing of ballots and other election paraphernalia.   

When things go awry, a lot of speculations come to mind that could further erode the processes and put to question the results.  Like how could a project estimated to cost P11.2 billion by Comelec itself be completed at a cost of P7.5 billion as was the bid of Smartmatic-TIM?  That's almost P4 billion short of the estimate.   

Two questions come to mind.  Did Comelec bloat its estimate to allow for kickback? Or did the winning bidder purposely underbid so that sub-standard supply that will allow room for manipulation of results despite automation can be delivered?  These speculations cannot be avoided considering our history of scams in government deals. 

We will never know for sure. What is important now is that the deal will push through after Smartmatic and TIM settled their differences within the deadline given by Comelec.  What the public can do now is be more vigilant to protect the only proof of true democracy – people freely electing and installing their leaders. 

If that is the last thing that we can do to preserve true democracy, then by all means let us do it.  Let us not allow CON-ASS a chance to change the Constitution by allowing poll automation to fail. 
Let us not allow the possibility of no election to materialize because the good people did nothing to prevent evil to triumph. Let everybody participate in ensuring that all is well that ends well.   

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