Supreme Court upholds poll automation contract

September 17, 2009

In an 11-3 vote, the Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with prayer for a restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, filed by Atty. Harry L. Roque, Jr., et al., which sought to nullify the Comelec’s award of the 2010 Elections Automation Project to the joint venture of TIM and Smartmatic and to permanently prohibit the Comelec, TIM and Smartmatic from signing and/or implementing the corresponding contract-award.

In arriving at its Decision, the Court, through Associate Justice Presbiterio J. Velasco, Jr., said that pilot testing is not necessary and that the PCOS machines satisfy the minimum system capabilities prescribed by RA 8436, as amended. 

As to the issue of pilot testing the Court stated that:

“While the underscored portion makes reference to a “2007 pilot exercise,” what it really exacts is that, for the automation of the May 2010 and subsequent elections, the PCOS or any AES to be procured must have demonstrated its capability and success in either a local or a foreign electoral exercise. And as expressly declared by the provision, participation in the 2007 electoral exercise is not a guarantee nor is it conclusive of the system’s fitness.  In this regard, the Court is inclined to agree with private respondents’ interpretation of the underscored portion in question:  “The provision clearly conveys that the [AES] to be used in the 2010 elections need not have been used in the 2007 elections, and that the demonstration of its capability need not be in a previous Philippine election. Demonstration of the success and capability of the PCOS may be in an electoral exercise in a foreign jurisdiction.” As determined by the Comelec, the PCOS system had been successfully deployed in previous electoral exercises in foreign countries, such as Ontario, Canada; and New York, USA, albeit Smartmatic was not necessarily the system provider. But then, RA 9369 does not call for the winning bidder of the 2010 automation project and the deploying entity/provider in the foreign electoral exercise to be one and the same entity. Neither does the law incidentally require that the system be first used in an archipelagic country or with a topography or a voting population similar to or approximating that of the Philippines.”

The Court also stated that the COMELEC should be afforded ample elbow room and enough wherewithal in devising means and initiatives that would enable it to accomplish the great objective for which it was created––to promote free, orderly, honest and peaceful elections. As to the procedural issue, the Court held that petitioners had locus standi saying that “where issues of public importance are presented, there is no necessity to show that the suitor has experienced or is in actual danger of suffering direct and personal injury as the requisite injury is assumed.”

Read the decision here.

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