Poll watchdogs say Smartmatic unable to correct PCOS glitches

Election watchdogs on Wednesday questioned Smartmatic-Total Information Management’s ability to correct glitches found in its precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. During the joint congressional oversight committee hearing on the automated elections, Evita Jimenez of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance said Smartmatic will not be able to improve the PCOS because the company no longer has the license to do so. In May of this year, Dominion Voting Systems International Corp., which supplies Smartmatic the automated system technologies, cancelled the 2009 license agreement between the two companies. The agreement enabled the Smartmatic to be Dominion’s legitimate representative in the Philippines. Smartmatic is currently suing Dominion for breach of contract. "If we will be allowed to use a defective technology, at the same time a technology that cannot be [enhanced] because Smartmatic is not allowed to do it, if they're going to push through with it, what kind of tech will they be using? A pirated technology, an unlicensed technology," Jimenez said. Jimenez added that Smartmatic is merely a "marketing" and "systems integrator" company, noting that program errors in the PCOS are from Dominion’s technologies. Also, Automated Elections System Watch, the members of which were also present during the hearing, previously said Smartmatic might not get Dominion’s proprietary source code and other “escrowed materials” which the Comelec could use to enhance the PCOS system. Dominion did not release the software for the PCOS enhancement because Smartmatic refused to pay the higher fees demanded by the US-based election technology manufacturer, according to AES. It’s personal Smartmatic president Cesar Flores said he "took it personally" that CENPEG is questioning Smartmatic's competence, given that the company has delivered machines to 41,000 locations and has conducted the elections in the United States, Venezuela, Brazil and Belgium earlier this year. Meanwhile, Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the poll watchdogs were not legal experts and they cannot, therefore, correctly interpret Smartmatic’s suit against Dominion. "Right now there were comments made by non-legal people. This I feel is very, very sad. They interpret allegations on cases filed in the foreign country. And they are making their own conclusions," Brillantes said. The poll chief previously said that only minor enhancements would be affected by the suit. Flores said that they have made 40 enhancements on the PCOS, some of which were cosmetic, despite the Dominion case. He also pointed out that Dominion itself has not made a statement whether the suit would affect Philippine elections. "Dominion has never expressed that we cannot use the technology. They have not contacted the Commission on Elections or anyone in the Philippines that they cannot use the technology," Flores said. "Comelec and the Filipino people - the end users – will not suffer because we are using one of our subcontractors [Dominion]," he added. Smartmatic earlier claimed that the 82,000 PCOS machines purchased by Comelec for P1.8 billion could last even until the 2016 elections. "These machines are for a particular purpose. They are still good even for the next elections. They are not like laptops that are very powerful, but are prone to wear-and-tear,” Smartmatic product development specialist Marlon Garcia had said in a House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms’ hearing late July. The Comelec has said that some 50,000 PCOS units passed the technical tests, 1,000 were rejected, and about 30,000 were set aside for having "dirty adaptors." — DVM, GMA News

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