Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today called on official observers to ensure transparency of the public bidding for an automated election system to guarantee the success of the May 2010 automated presidential elections.
Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369 (RA 9369), made the call as the Commission on Elections Special Bids and Awards Committee (Comelec-SBAC) started the opening of bids for the automation.
"At first glance, the Comelec's bidding process appears to be transparent and organized. The official observers are given copies of the documents submitted, which can be seen through a projector by members of the media and other stakeholders observing the proceedings," he said.
"However, the Comelec has yet to choose the winning bidder. And until it does, we must not let our guard down if we want to ensure that the automation pushes through successfully and the preparations proceed according to the poll body's timetable," he added.
The official observers were the Commission on Audit (COA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Office of the Ombudsman, United States Embassy, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Consortium on Electoral Reforms, Procurement Watch, Inc. and the Transparency and Accountability Network.
The poll body is preparing for the full automation of the 2010 elections mandated by RA 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections Systems Law, which was pilot-tested in the Aug. 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
A week before the ARMM elections, Gordon personally went to Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan to talk with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee.
He went to there to convince the MILF that the ARMM election should not be postponed because there is a larger interest to be considered, that is the full automation of the 2010 elections.
During the election, the senator visited voting centers in Shari Aguak in Maguindanao, in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Shariff Kabunsuan and canvassing Centers in Cotabato City, also in Shariff Kabunsuan, to observe and ensure the successful conduct of the automated elections.
The opening of bids, originally set for April 27, was held on May 4 at the Comelec head office in Intramuros, Manila. Seven out of ten bidders, who paid P1 million for the Terms of Reference (TOR), tendered their bid for the poll automation project. The SBAC opened the first bid, which was that of Avante International Technology, Inc. The committee went over the documents that the group submitted. It checked the documents one-by-one, to determine if the consortium complied with all documentary requirements.
However, the group was later disqualified for failing to submit the last two pages of its proposed contract and certificate of acceptance. Gordon underscored anew that a credible election system will restore people's trust and confidence not only in the country's electoral process, but also in the government.
"This will be a lasting legacy for future generations. A fully automated elections will lead us to the reality of our dream of having credible leaders voted through a credible system of election," he said.
"The Comelec will greatly benefit from the poll automation because once the election is fully automated, the poll body would regain its credibility as an independent poll body and it can have its hand on other election-related matters, apart from electoral protests," he added.