Comelec spox vows to monitor delivery of vote counting machines for 2022 polls

November 2, 2021 - 12:59 PM
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Vote counting machine
Casting ballots in a vote-counting machine in this undated photo. (The STAR/Roel-Pareño)

An official of the Commission on Elections assured the public that the deliveries of vote counting machines (VCM) which would be used in the 2022 elections will be “witnessed and monitored closely.”

The poll body made this statement after concerned citizens expressed worry over the political affiliation of the logistics firm that bagged a deal with the Comelec for its deployment of election equipment.

The poll body had awarded F2 Logistics a P536-million delivery contract after a competitive public bidding was held, according to Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez.

The firm, which has Efren Uy as its president, is a subsidiary of businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Management & Resources Corp. under the parent company Udenna Corporation.

Efren, according to Comelec Chairperson Sheriff Abas, is “not the brother of Dennis Uy.”

Dennis Uy is a Davao tycoon credited as one of President Rodrigo Duterte‘s biggest presidential campaign donors in the 2016 elections, having a contribution of P30 million.

The businessman is the chairman and CEO of Udenna Corp. engaged in petroleum and retail, shipping and logistics, education, food, gaming and tourism, property development and management, infrastructure development, and energy.

Election watchdogs, lawmakers, and private individuals have reportedly urged the poll body to disqualify F2 Logistics due to Uy’s links.

Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao called it “patently unethical” since a “major campaign contributor of the Duterte presidential campaign gets to be in charge of transportation of election paraphernalia, equipment and supplies.”

“There is clearly something wrong with this picture that no amount of legal technicalities can debunk,” he was quoted as saying.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a senate resolution calling on the Congress to investigate Comelec’s awarding of the contract, saying “there is a need to avoid any semblance of conflict of interest.”

Some Filipinos on social media similarly expressed their concern.

“How can we expect a clean and honest election? That Dennis Uy owned-logistics should not join in any government bidding because it gives doubt to the result of the forthcoming election,” a Twitter user wrote.

Jimenez, in response to the apprehensions, released a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“Will who delivers the vote counting machines affect the count?
No,” he began and enumerated steps concerning the election equipment.

“1) After delivery, VCMs undergo final testing (and) sealing up to three days BEFORE Election Day, so on Election Day, we know the VCMs are working properly; 2) If the machines still malfunction, backup VCMs are used,” Jimenez said.

VCM stands for vote counting machine.

“3) Before voting starts, the VCMs print out a zero-report proving that there are no preprogrammed results in the machine’s memory; 4) After voting ends, the VCM prints out an election return hard copy which is then certified by the electoral board and watchers,” he added.

“5) After that, the VCM transmits election returns to a) the municipal canvassing system; b) the central server; and c) the transparency server; 6) After transmission, the main memory card is hand carried by the electoral board to the municipal canvassing system,” Jimenez further said.

“7) The VCM is packed up and awaits pick up to be returned to the deployment hubs. As you can see, at no point is the logistics provider able to tamper with the election outcome, either because of process safeguards (like the zero-report)… or the fact that the VCMs have practically nothing to do with the results once the results have been reported out,” he added.

The Comelec official said that the “actual deliveries will be witnessed and monitored closely.”

He also rejected accusations of “conflict of interest” in awarding the contract to F2 Logistics, saying that it has “proffered the lowest responsive bid.”

“The question of conflict of interest was looked at. Talagang chineck ‘yan ng ating bids and awards committee. It was found there really was no grounds to say there was conflict of interest,” Jimenez told ANC’s “Headstart.”

“Machines will be at the place they’re going to be used maybe 3-4 days before election day. When you receive the machine… you’ll find out right then and there. You’re going to have what we call final testing and sealing,” he added.

The high-stakes elections will be held on May 9, 2022 when the country will choose its next leader who will steer the nation heavily stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic.