POSTSCRIPT / December 11, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Hey guys, let’s go easy on Mar Roxas

TOUGH JOB: Come on, guys, let’s give Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas a break. I mean it. He is just trying hard under most trying circumstances – unlike many of us who are safe and dry in the comfort of home.

Oops, just after I typed out that line above, Roxas hit back at netizens who had bashed him over a photo documenting his falling off a motorcycle in an area in Samar ravaged by tropical storm Ruby (Hagupit).

With him answering back his critics, sige, bahala na kayong magsagutan.

From Eastern Samar, the poor province that again bore the brunt of a storm’s wrath. Roxas explained why he decided to use a motorcycle while inspecting the damage in Taft town.

* * *

QUICK MOVE: Roxas told ANC in a phone TV interview: “If it required walking, if it required motorcycle, whatever it required, I was simply doing my job which was getting to ground zero as quickly as possible.” (I wholly agree. – fdp)

“All other comments are irrelevant and, frankly, reflect more on the people making them.” (But I quite disagree with his saying that. – fdp)

If Roxas did not order or suggest the taking and posting of his picture on a motorbike, he should not be taken to task for the mode of quicker movement that he took. In a situation like that, speed is important.

About that earlier photo of his carrying a sack of something heavy (Binay?) on his shoulder, if that one was contrived by his handlers, as I suspect, that was really bad. But, let me repeat, his resorting to a motorbike in Samar was all right – even if he fell.

* * *

GRAVITY RULES: As for his not wearing a helmet, that was forgivable even if it exposed him to possible injury in an accident. That was his own lookout, but when one wants to quickly be able to help, helmet or no helmet is fine with me.

That he fell, well, we blame that on pressure and the inexorable law of gravity.

I don’t mean the gravity of a situation where Vice President Jojo Binay beats him to the presidency in 2016 in a grudge fight.

The latest survey (if you believe surveys) had it that Binay is still the choice for president if elections were held today – despite the demolition job conducted by the Senate Yellow Ribbon subcommittee commandeered by senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Cayetano.

* * *

WAY OUT: Now watch how Smartmatic-TIM and its friends at the Commission on Elections squirm out of a problem that could disqualify the supplier of Precinct Count Optical Scan machines from bidding to supply more PCOS for the 2016 elections.

The discovery days ago of a defective pre-qualification document submitted by Smartmatic-TIM to the Comelec special bids and awards committee could be the last nail in the coffin of a company that has been dead for years.

But with Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and other commissioners apparently infatuated with Smartmatic International Corp. in joint venture with Total Information Management, a way may yet be found to award it the P2.5-billion PCOS deal.

This bystander senses one coming: Tie up the procurement process in endless legal knots. Then with the failure of bidding and time running out, the Comelec could justify its falling back on a negotiated contract with its suki Smartmatic-TIM.

* * *

RESURRECTION: To add to the pressure on Comelec to stay the course,  Smartmatic-Asia president Cesar Flores reminded everybody that the poll body has no choice but to retain his firm.

He was trying to resurrect Smartmatic from the grave and hold the government hostage by enforcing an extended warranty agreement guaranteeing an instant P1.2-billion project to repair and upgrade its PCOS used in 2010 and 2013.

At the opening last week of the bid documents for new PCOS machines for 2016, Smartmatic-TIM was found and admitted to have filed documents showing that its corporate life was meant for the automation of the 2010 elections only.

Since the purpose for the joint venture has been served, and considering that no new registration was obtained nor an amendment made, is not Smartmatic-TIM’s corporate personality expired and ceased to exist?

* * *

BLACKMAIL: The core issue that the SBAC now has to address is: Smartmatic passed away after the 2010 elections and can no longer legally do business in the country.

The point also raises questions on the wisdom and the legality of Smartmatic having played a central role in the 2013 midterm elections. With the criminal collusion of the Comelec, Smartmatic then pulled out the integrity safeguards required by law.

This is also the reason why the election watchdog group Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) accused Smartmatic’s Flores of trying to blackmail the government when he said the Comelec cannot allow other companies to refurbish their PCOS.

* * *

WARRANTY LAPSED: Engineer Hermenegildo Estrella Jr., an IT expert and C3E convenor, raised these points:

• Smartmatic’s veiled threat to the Comelec is a desperate act of a phantom company trying to be alive and one last try in fooling the people.

• Comelec should be reminded that the ghost company almost sabotaged the 2013 elections because its dispute with the owner of the PCOS source code left the system without proper license and legitimacy very close to Election Day.

• The repair and refurbishing of old PCOS machines should be bid out in accordance with law as recommended by Comelec’s legal department.

• The PCOS machines are owned by the state. With the warranty having lapsed, they can be opened, repaired and refurbished by non-Smartmatic technicians — they are aplenty — who can do the work at much lower cost.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 11, 2014)

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