Poll automation partners deny link to the First Family

July 6, 2009 9:16 am 

MANILA, July 6 –- The officials of the two partners of the joint venture corporation that will handle the country’s first full poll automation in 2010 denied allegations that they are connected with the members of the First Family.

Cesar Flores, sales director of the Smartmatic International Holding, and Jose Marie Antunez, president of Smartmatic’s Filipino partner Total Information Management (TIM), made the denial during Monday’s Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the near break-up of Smartmatic and TIM last week.

”I have no any relationship either with the First Gentleman (Jose Miguel Arroyo) or the President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo),” Antunez told the Senate panel composed of chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Pia Cayetano and Chiz Escudero.

”I’m not related to any member of the First Family nor to any influential politicians,” Juan Villa, Smartmatic authorized representative to the Philippines, said.

The officials of the consortium also clarified that the hiring of 2GO as their logistics partner has been done without any anomaly.

”We have done study on the background of 2GO and we found out it met our requirements in terms of logistics,” Cesar Flores, Smartmatic sales director and spokesman of the consortium, said.

Antunez pointed the TIM’s withdrawal from the partnership on the unsettled issues on the financial risks and criminal liabilities.

”But we have already reconciled everything and we finally, come into terms. I assured the Filipino people of the poll automation next year,” Antunez said.

As part of the assurance, Flores said they have agreed to submit to a Singaporean court that would apply commercial arbitration rules in the event a disagreement would arise in the future.

Commission on Election (Comelec) chairman Jose Armando Melo informed the lawmakers that the Smartmatic and TIM have already settled their differences and only paper works, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration, are needed to formalize their joint venture agreement and sign the contract with the Comelec.

”We expect within two or three days to complete the marriage of the two partners and hopefully, sign the contract with the Comelec within this week,” Melo said.

The Smartmatic technicians have in fact demonstrated how a counting machine will work on election day.

Enrile expressed satisfaction with the presentation as he even assured the Comelec of the Senate’s support to the idea that Comelec can take over if the TIM withdraw from the partnership in the future.

”As far as I can see, there is no legal impediment to the Comelec to take over,” Enrile said.

Smartmatic-TIM submitted P7.2-billion bid for the automation project, agreeing to lease 82,000 counting machines.

With the poll automation, Flores told the panel that 90 percent of the election results will be known after six hours and expected a 100 percent complete result within two days.

Melo said Comelec also expects to lessen significantly the protest based on the automated 2007 ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) election where the commission reported zero protest.

In a media interview, Melo appealed to congressman Pablo Garcia not to pursue his plan to file a petition to stop the poll automation.

”My fear is that it (petition) would create hindrance to our effort to computerize the election,” Melo said. (PNA) /V3/jfm/utb/

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