Archive for May 27, 2009

Poll bidders: Now you see ’em, now you don’t

GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc The Philippine Star,  May 27, 2009

Let’s hope Gloria Arroyo’s latest public outburst serves as a lesson in basic cleanliness. The President flared up when, on demonstrating to school tots in Manila how to wash their hands to prevent spreading germs like the A-H1N1 virus, there was no trashcan to throw her paper towel. She scolded school officials for the lapse, instructing them to place waste bins in crucial areas like near faucets. Public building administrators, take note.

Private establishments that cater to the public too must be equipped with plain hygiene facilities. Tourism officials require gas stations to have toilets, but many of these don’t have running water and so stink — a sign of filth. For that matter, diners can judge the sanitation of a restaurant kitchen by the way the owner keeps the toilet tidy.

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In response to my reports on his failings, Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez chooses to heckle me in his newspaper column and radio show. I will not stoop to his puerile level, but instead pray that he sticks to his sworn duties as Cabinet man. Surely the Almighty gave him a second lease on life via a kidney transplant for him to mend his ways.

My latest piece was about a suspect in a rape and two murders who comes from an Iloilo political clan allied with Gonzalez (Gotcha, 20 May 2009). I quoted the provincial administrator and a kin of one of the slain as saying the justice secretary was sitting on cases against Vicente Espinosa. I also cited Iloilo press reports about Gonzalez abetting the “partiality” of his Iloilo provincial prosecutor Bernabe Dusaban for the Espinosas. To that, he blabbered insult instead of dutiful explanation from an accountable public officer.

To show up Gonzalez’s feigning ignorance of real events in his home-province, I again cite a news bit. It shows that he should have ordered his underling Dusaban to inhibit because of open ties to the accused. The report is from Sun Star Iloilo on 16 Dec. 2005, about Espinosa’s daughter’s debut: “…There are also several invited guests who had been part of the debut party… Those who were in 18 roses were Vicente Espinosa, the father of the debutante, … (and) Provincial Prosecutor Bernabe Dusaban….”

There’s no reason to name the daughter since she has no part in the issue. As for Espinosa, he must be presumed innocent unless otherwise proven. Sadly, though, Gonzalez and Dusaban’s actions are suspicious in the cases where the lives of two human beings were snuffed out.

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And then there was one — once again.

Monitoring the Comelec poll automation bidding is like watching a card trick: now you see ‘em, now you don’t. After readmitting a debarred bidder Saturday, the bids-and-awards body disqualified it anew Monday.

The consortium of foreign Election Systems and Software and local AMA Group was flunked for alleged deficient submissions. This once more leaves controversial Smartmatic-TIM as the only one of seven bidders to move onto test-run of ballot counters and background-check of credentials.

ES&S is America’s top election machine maker, supplying 40 percent of units ordered by the 50 states; AMA is RP’s largest computer training network. The Comelec previously had ditched ES&S-AMA for incomplete proof of having contracted in the past at least half of the poll agency’s computerization budget of P11.3 billion. The consortium countered that Minnesota and Michigan officials can explain why they cannot issue the required certificates of project completion. The Comelec decided Saturday to just verify the matter after opening ES&S-AMA’s technical and financial papers on Monday.

ES&S-AMA never got to open its bid that day, though. The Comelec ditched it on two counts. Allegedly it failed to submit the technical design and manual for the 82,200 precinct-count optical scanners that the election automation needs. Too, ES&S’s credit-line manager’s check of $13.4 million supposedly is non-compliant because coming from a Bank of America branch in Iowa instead of a bank operating in RP.

ES&S-AMA reasoned out that technical plans, which take months to prepare, usually come only after contract awarding for proprietary reasons. The Comelec had in fact qualified Smartmatic-TIM despite a similar lack. On loan backing, AMA had submitted a P675-million letter of credit from an RP bank, while US partner ES&S gave a manager’s check worth the same in dollars naturally from its depository bank. The Comelec insisted, however, that the Bangko Sentral has no jurisdiction over the US bank. ES&S-AMA is appealing the decision.

Smartmatic-TIM had emerged the last man standing two weeks ago, when the Comelec opened its and one other team’s offers. Smartmatic-TIM gave a bid of P7.2 billion for the 82,200 ballot counters. Observers called it “outrageously low” for being way down the Comelec’s P11.3-billion reserve. But it passed since the amount was within limits. The other bidder, Indra Sistemas of Spain and Strategic Alliance Corp. of RP, had bid P11.2 billion, but for only 50,000 scanners, and so was dunked.

About noon yesterday Smartmatic-TIM was instructed to proceed with demonstrating its machines’ capability today. But ES&S-AMA is set to contest its second disqualification.

ES&S’s initial readmission Saturday had encouraged two other bidders to move for reversal of disqualifications. US-based Sequoia Voting Systems and Universal Storefront Services Corp. filed Monday morning a plea to be re-qualified because their newly incorporated joint venture is a valid entity. Gilat of Israel and local partner F.F. Cruz Group cited other technical compliances. Both were rejected Tuesday.

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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