Forwarders liable should poll machines fail to reach locations on time
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
Companies in charge of transporting voting machines across the Philippines will still be held liable should the equipment fail to reach their locations on time, the Commission on Elections said on Friday.
“The PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)’… role is important but the forwarders are responsible in the delivery of the PCOS [Precinct Count Optical Scanner] machines,” Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said during a meeting attended by the poll body, the PNP, AFP, Smartmatic-TIM, the Department of Education, and the three forwarders tasked to deliver the machines.
More than 76,000 poll machines must reach their designated areas three to seven days before the elections for the testing and sealing, Larrazabal said.
The PNP and the AFP will be in charge of securing the machines.
Earlier, the Comelec enlisted the services of forwarding firms Germalin Enterprises (National Capital Region), Ace Logistics (North and South Luzon), and Argo Forwarders (Visayas and Mindanao) for the transportation of the poll machines and ballot boxes.
The Comelec decided to leave the delivery of all the election materials to the three companies so that there will be no more confusion, just like how it awarded the contract to manufacture the ballot boxes to poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said.
Amalia Zoleta, vice president of Argo’s marketing division, said that the company is well aware of what will happen should they fail to deliver more than 35,000 PCOS units to the Visayas and Mindanao.
“It’s in the contract, nakalagay dun (it says there)… if u cannot deliver within that four days then you have to make an advance delivery,” she said.
She refused, however, to divulge how much they will have to pay should they commit a contract breach.
But she noted that they have insured the machines in case anything happens.
She also said that their deployment plan will ensure that the voting machines will be delivered to their hubs in the municipalities beforeMay 3, which will be the beginning of the deployment to the polling places.
The forwarder said that it has hubs in Region 6 (Iloilo, Roxas, Bacolod), Region 7 (Cebu, Tagbiliran, Dumaguete), Region 8 (Tacloban), Region 9 (Zamboanga City, Dipolog), Region 10 (Ozamis City, Cagayan De Oro), Region 11 (Davao), Region 12 (General Santos City), Caraga (Butuan), and ARMM (Cotabato).
“For the hubs we have enough security people hired. We have contracted a security agency who will handle the whole deployment for Visayas (and) Mindanao,” she said.
Zoleta said that her company has already asked Smartmatic to double the packing of the machines bound for far-flung areas.
She also said that they are hoping for the AFP and PNP’s protection in provinces known to have a history of election violence.
On the other hand, Germalin executive assistant Ireneo Padrigon said that her company is prepared to deliver the more than 7,000 machines to be deployed in the NCR.
“Ito naman ay pinaghandaan nmin. Since last year pa kami nag-prepare dito (We prepared for this. We have been preparing since last year),” he told reporters.
Padrigon said that the company will be storing the machines in its hub in Tandang Sora in Quezon City for safekeeping until they are scheduled for delivery.
He also assured that the PCOS units will remain unopened while inside the facility.
“Naka seal yun. Hindi namin tatanggapin kung merong irregularity (Those are sealed. We will not accept them if there are irregularities),” he said, adding that they also have organic secuirty personnel hired to guard the machines.
Argo worked with the Comelec during the 2007 national and 2008 ARMM elections. Germalin also worked with the poll body in the 2007 polls.
PNP, AFP assistance
Both the PNP and AFP have committed to providing assistance to the Comelec in the deployment of the PCOS units to the different provinces.
“We are throwing 100 percent of our commitment to ensuring that there is credible elections come May 2010,” said AFP Brig. Gen. Rolando Hautea, Jr. during the conference.
Hautea said that the AFP has reduced incidents of violence in the problematic provinces.
“Some areas we have even handed over the task of fighting insurgencies to the local government units,” he said.
For his part, PNP Deputy Director General Edgardo Acuna said that the police has already prepared for this project way back.
“We know for a fact that a tremendous amount of security requirement will be demanded from the PNP and AFP… we are really committed to throwing all the resources of the PNP to make this election work,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Gregorio said that the poll body still be discussing in detail what the PNP and AFP will specifically be doing regarding the delivery of the poll machines.
Acuna said he will make sure that no PNP and AFP personnel will be allowed to handle any of the election paraphernalia to avoid any controversy.
He said that the military and police will concentrate on providing security. – GMANews.TV