ABS-CBN News : PPCRV urges gov't to revisit procurement rules as election nears

19 October 2021

By Ina Reformina | ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Tuesday said there is a need to revisit a provision in the government's procurement law, noting that it might be blocking more election solutions providers to participate in the country's polls. 

In an online forum, PPCRV Chair Myla Villanueva said it would be more beneficial to the country if more organizations were given the chance to participate in the bidding process for poll needs, hence the need to look into a provision in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“Probably that's the reason why only a few bidders participate… We really wish that there would be more bidders in our future elections… It’s a high bar, but it’s the law," Villanueva pointed out.

“We certainly would like to question it more in the future,” she said.

Villanueva was referring to the requirement for single-largest completed contract (SLCC) similar to the contract to be bid, the value of which the IRR places at at least 50 percent of the approved budget for contract to be bid.

“Mayroon din naman nangyayari (other government procurement projects) na capital lang a few hundred thousand pero nakakasali sa billion contract so there’s a plus and minus to everything, but we should revisit it,” she added.

(There were some instances that other government procurement projects have a few hundred thousand pesos as capital but they were able to secure billions worth of contract.)

She also raised the possibility of bidding out separate contracts for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao instead of a single contract for the procurement of vote-counting machines and the rest of the automated election system.

“Bakit hindi po i-bid ang Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao magkahiwalay para maganda rin po ang participation ng several companies?” Villanueva asked.

(Why can't we bid Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao separately so several companies could also participate?)

Since 2010, Philippine polls have been dominated by one vendor, the consortium of Smartmatic - Total Information Management.

Villanueva said there are other interested firms but are unable to participate in the bidding due to the SLCC requirement.

This was just among the topics discussed during the forum sponsored by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas which had the theme "debunking the myths surrounding the automated election system.”

Among the "myths" debunked was the "7-hour glitch" on the generation of election results to the transparency server where media organizations obtain data from.

In the 2019 midterm polls, Smartmatic was hounded by the controversial glitch that delayed the transmission of data from the polling precincts to media partners. 

The transparency server receives the same results as the Commission on Elections central server and the local canvassing boards.

Yu explained there were “no tampering of logs during that period” and election results “were coming in but not generated.”

Smartmatic has engaged the Comelec since 2010 when it provided machines and systems for the Philippines' first ever nationwide automated elections.

In the 2016 elections, a script change made by Smartmatic in the media transparency server was criticized by stakeholders.

The Philippines is slated to conduct its pandemic national elections on May 9, 2022.