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The Manila Times - Smartmatic wins Comelec bidding over lowest bidder!

News & Interviews
29 December 2020

By Reynaldo O. Arcilla | The Manila Times

AS promised, the following items will regularly be featured in this space as long as the authorities concerned do not do the right thing:

The notorious Smartmatic — In June last year, President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte directed the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to search for a replacement for poll technology provider Smartmatic.

Has Digong changed his mind? It appears he has.

Smartmatic has just won the bidding conducted by the Comelec to refurbish its vote counting machines for the 2022 elections.

And there has been no reaction whatsoever from Malacañang — especially considering that Smartmatic won over the lowest bidder, for what experts say are allegedly very flimsy reasons!

The only other bidder, Power Serve Inc. (PSI), was disqualified by the Comelec’s special bids and awards committee (SBAC) for its failure to indicate “zero” or “dash” in the relevant bid documents.

PSI’s bid of P490 million is lower by P147,443,308.45 than Smartmatic’s bid of P637,443,308.45.

PSI has appealed to the SBAC to reconsider its decision.

Let’s watch what happens.

2. Is the United States coming back to Subic? — About three months ago, this newspaper reported that Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Robert Empedrad, former Philippine Navy chief, said a contract had already been finalized between Australian shipbuilder Austal and US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management and would reportedly soon take over the Subic Bay yard from Hanjin Shipping, a South Korean firm that went bankrupt in 2016.

Empedrad also reportedly said the US and Australia were eyeing the yard as a possible ship repair and maintenance facility (read, naval base). He added that US and Australian naval presence at Subic Bay could bolster national security.

That would directly run counter to what President Duterte said in his fifth State of the Nation Address in July.

“Kaya ‘yang maglagay lagay ka ng base at this time, this will ensure, if war breaks out because there would be atomic arsenal brought in, this will ensure the extinction of the Filipino race,” he said.

A grim scenario indeed!

So, what will Digong do, or can do, if the contract is already a fait accompli? A reliable source said Austal and Cerberus were reportedly poised to take over the facility during the first quarter of next year.

An authoritative source suggests that the government could insist on renegotiating the contract to include a provision that “there should be a restriction that prohibits the yard from accepting any naval business, whether for repair, routine or emergency, and new construction defining clearly the protocols. It should also prohibit the accommodation of any nuclear powered vessel, armed ships whether they are government or civilian-controlled.”

The source also said that “we should get a clear picture on who the beneficial owners really are. It is just too bad that our local entrepreneurs do not have the appetite for this business.”

3. Fugitive Andres Bautista — In November last year, Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd urged the National Bureau of Investigation to serve the arrest warrant issued by the Senate on former Comelec chairman Juan Andres Bautista for contempt for ignoring the Senate hearings into his alleged ill-gotten wealth. It was his wife who blew the whistle on him.

Bautista was earlier impeached by the House of Representatives, but resigned and left the country before standing trial in the Senate. It was later found that he had fled to the US. Shouldn’t the government seek his extradition from the US to face the charges against him? Isn’t flight a sign of guilt? Maybe his passport should be canceled to force his return?
In this regard, a reader wrote:

“Bautista is untouchable. He knows too much on both sides of the fence. Bautista acted brazenly because his bases were fully covered. No action for extradition? Of course, there will be no extradition because there are no initiatives. [The] Philippines does not care and the US has its own interest. Why did Bautista go to the US? Because he is properly protected there.”

Isn’t Bautista’s case one of corruption? So, how come there has been no action on the part of the government to be consistent with its campaign against corruption?

And what about the Senate? After all, it was its arrest warrant that was defied by Bautista. Shouldn’t it at least encourage the government to do something?

* * *

A very dear friend and compadre, Manuel R. Guillermo, wrote a very timely and meaningful article which I would like to share with my readers, to wit:
“What I could have asked Santa, but didn’t.”

“First off, let’s settle this: Santa lives. At least that’s what we parents, or grandparents, try very hard, to make our little children believe. Why, because we don’t see anything wrong in giving them a sense of hope — or healthy illusions, if that be the case — that wishes can come true, if not this time then maybe at some time later.

So, there, that’s out of the way: Santa lives — in whatever shape or form he is conceived to look like, although it’s probably safe, from a purely commercial context, that he is this fat old man with white long hair and beard that bellows, even guffaws, incessantly.

More than just a vaccine and taking spirituality aside for now, there could not be a more desperate time for us adults to have a Santa we can holler to for help than at this serious pandemic time. Playing along, I like to think that these here are most probably some of the things we might be wishing Santa for — from an adult’s perspective for a change. So, here goes:

“Dear Santa, I surmise you’ve followed a good many of us on Twitter or Facebook. So you know when I am sleeping or awake and I had been bad or good this year. I would venture, though, that you know I have not been one of your regular fans, who nag you each year for a lot of goodies, but hey, thanks for the iPAd (I wasn’t expecting it!) although if I had my druthers, I would have preferred a mini version one (hehehe, just kidding). Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s a list of sorts that I might actually put together scantily.

Well, Santa, if I have only one wish to make, I would wish for us all in the entire planet to be spared, once and for all, from this coronavirus that plagues us. It has already caused immense number of deaths and damage it forces us to start casting doubt on how when all of humanity will perish in the face of the earth from this dreadful virus. Surely this would top any and all lists you would get from all your devotees at this time

For the more probably trivial wishes, I’d like for our Philippine peso to go back to its former level of providing the multitudes of our countrymen who sacrifice being away from their loved ones to work abroad with an exchange rate of at least P50 for one dollar. Every peso counts a lot for their families left at home to eke a living meagerly.

Still on the macro scale, Santa, I’d hope to see finally some real drastic and substantial improvements in our international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport; not just pure cosmetics as had been applied before. Greeting our visitors from abroad with “rondalla” singers is a weak attempt to hide the more technical operational infrastructure limitations of the airport itself. Happily, from recent news, there seems to be this time more serious bids to turn the situation around coming from more serious proponents, the conglomerate SMC included.

Now, not really a wish, Santa, but a little help from you on my continuing to be perplexed about how, or why, we as a nation could stake all our source of pride on the rise or fall of a professional (read commercial) pugilist or a beauty contestant. Why are we so quick to attach our claim to fame on a bunch of foreign-born, foreign-bred football players just because they carry a slight fraction of Filipino blood in their veins? Even Tiger Woods at his peak, who is 50 percent Thai, was never claimed or adulated by the Thais.

On the other hand, we have scores, maybe hundreds, of young Filipinos who garner enough gold, or silver, or bronze medals in the Math Olympiads and they don’t make front page in the local papers. There are many other such lofty achievements but we catch them in the obscure middle pages of the broadsheets.

That said, I wish that there would be a more national concern on why recent global surveys have spotlighted the serious decline of Filipino students in basic academic subjects. Santa, this is serious, I dare reckon.

Okay, Santa, something closer to home and somewhat bite-sized: how about my wishing for people to be more open, truthful, sincere, committed and humble?

Whoa, did you say these are not within your realm of influence? Yup, I got you, not your cup of tea, right? I guess not. But hey, thanks very much, just the same, for being around each year during Christmastime.

Until next year again, here’s my best wishes to you through the year!
Cheers, Manny”

* * *

From an internet friend:
A woman was sued by a man for defamation of character. He charged that she had called him a pig. She was found guilty and fined. After the trial, she asked the judge: “Does this mean I cannot call Mr. Johnson a pig?” The judge said that was true. “Does this mean I cannot call a pig Mr. Johnson?” asked the woman. The judge replied that she could indeed call a pig Mr. Johnson with no fear of being charged with a crime. The woman turned, looked directly at Mr. Johnson, and said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Johnson.”

* * *

A Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to one and all!