Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Smartmatic and TIM---real score

What is the meaning of administrative control? In separate interviews today with Cesar Flores of Smartmatic and Atty. Boy de Borja of Total Information Management or TIM, DZMM anchor Ted Failon was able to elicit the true cause of the "irreconciliable differences" pointed out earlier by COMELEC chairman Jose Melo to have caused the sudden withdrawal of TIM in its joint venture agreement with Smartmatic.

In essence, it was not money that they're fighting for---its administrative control of the counting machines, meaning, who'll be the main administrator of the entire project. Under the terms of reference, the consortium shall hire a project team to implement the project. TIM wants to hire its own while Smartmatic wants to follow the law and directly manage the project themselves, which, if you closely analyze, is logical. Why hire a third party when Smartmatic is competent enough to operate the entire system?

TIM is adamant that it should have more administrative control since by operation of law, they should comprise 60% of the company to be formed by both companies. For Smartmatic, this is not to be because under the terms of reference by the COMELEC, the company with the technical know-how should spearhead the project and in this case, it should very well be Smartmatic.

It seems prior to the approval of their bid, there was a joint venture agreement signed by both parties which maps out their working relationship. TIM claims that they encountered many problems with Smartmatic in the past yet, they initially agreed on the terms of the joint venture agreement. When the notice of award was issued, that was the time that both parties seriously tackled the issue and the issue of administrative control was raised. Why is this so important?

More than the 7billion peso contract, administrative control of the system means more money for the consortium. Whoever holds administrative control of the system can demand more money from election lawyers and operators. The possibility of manipulation is actually there since it has been proven in previous Smartmatic engagements abroad, that the system is really falliable. We know that human error can actually occur. As what Atty. de Borja suggested in his interview, automation does not guarantee clean elections. Therefore, whoever controls the administration key holds the fate of political candidates, especially the vote tally of national candidates.

TIM has engaged a PR consultant to convince the public that it stands on a higher moral ground, using nationalism as its platform. Yet, there seems to be something wrong here.

Why is TIM so concerned with administrative control? Because that's the very essence of all of these things.

How would TIM recover its initial investment put forth by the ABC group composed of Alderito Yuyuico, Bonifacio Sumbilla and Cezar Quiambao if TIM can't pay them through checks since checks to be issued by the consortium has to go through Smartmatic? Sources say it was this group that frontloaded the initial fund to ensure the grant of the bidding to the consortium. If even checks to be issued are to come pass Smartmatic, that is risky because this will expose the contacts and people really behind TIM.

Likewise, we all know the ties and links of this ABC group with Malacanang. How can Malacanang complete its hold to power if the administrative control over the automated elections is in the hands of foreigners? The main agenda of the palace is total control, even of the elections, and they cannot do that if the systems control is with Smartmatic, a foreign entity without political interests? Control has to be monopolized or centralized by Malacanang; otherwise, it loses more power enroute to 2010 and would really render Mrs. Arroyo as a lameduck.

TIM is actually using the nationalist card to buttress its claims but the core of this issue is the very fact that what Smartmatic actually refuses to do is hand over control of the automated elections to the hands of the ABC group which has very, very close links with the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Smartmatic, to be honest, stands on a higher moral ground. It just seems that TIM is, since it created the initiative by withdrawing from the consortium.

Now, what would happen afterwards? Should COMELEC decide to take Smartmatic in a joint partnership agreement which would definitely violate Philippine law? Or COMELEC would just revert to manual counting since most election operators are under the stable hands of the palace?

Again, the issue is administrative control. Whoever controls the elections, controls or can dictate the very fate of politicians in this country. In manual counting, the palace has complete control since it has, under its stable, the most effective and the most efficient election operators. If the automation pushes thru, control will be under a foreign entity, Smartmatic. That's why TIM wants this out of the equation since it wants control even of the technical aspects of the project. Why? Because it serves as the front organization of the ABC group, which, again, let me repeat, has very close links with the First Gentleman. TIM's contention that in case of a problem caused by the system, they'll just be the ones who'll be under scrutiny and possible prosecution is crap. In a joint venture agreement, both parties are jointly and severally liable. The government can run after Smartmatic. TIM just wants to honor its commitment with its external funding partners, which, in this case, are those very close to the First Gentleman.

Control. Money. Power. That's the real score behind the split. Now, who's the more nationalistic? These foreigners or these locals?