These are parts of  Mr. Bondoc’s column, “Gotcha”, published in the Philippine Star’s Opinion Section. The two segments below were published in the Philippine Star‘s February 8 and 10, 2010 editions, respectively.

The foreign firm controls the design, assembly, delivery, stowing and training of operators of ballot counters. Tapped by it are four manning and four logistics firms whose assets are puny fractions of the hundred-million-peso subcontracts.

Does Comelec know? Smartmatic, the poll automation main supplier, has been hiring undersized companies to train operators and to warehouse its counting machines.

The outfits that Venezuelan-owned, Barbados-based Smartmatic is subcontracting are experienced. But their capitals, past-year revenues, and manpower are puny, compared to the hundred-million-peso deals being handed out. This imperils the utility and security of the 82,200 precinct count optical scanners for which Comelec is paying Smartmatic P7.2 billion.

As of Jan., Smartmatic has tapped three manning and four logistics firms. All have assets less than P20 million, but their subcontracts reach as high as P240 million. Three notched past-year revenues of less than P2 million, two around P20 million, and one at P45 million. Two have only one employee each on record, and three have only 7 to 12. The criteria that Smartmatic used to recruit the companies were unknown.

Smartmatic is supposed to be the 40-percent foreign minority partner in the automation venture. Total Information Management is the 60-percent Filipino partner, as required by law. But in SEC papers of their holding firm 1920 Business Inc., Smartmatic had paid up 90 percent of their P678-million stock, and TIM only 10 percent. Smartmatic chief finance officer Armando Yanes, a Venezuelan newcomer to the Philippines, runs operations. TIM, a computer system provider of major local banks, contributes only 10 percent of the work, founder Jose Mari Antunez has admitted to senators.

Field sources say that Yanes hired Ventureslink International for P149.4 million to train PCOS operators in Central Luzon, Western and Central Visayas, and Caraga Region. For a separate P33.3 million the manning firm is to cover Eastern Visayas. From SEC records, Ventureslink has assets of P18.8 million, liabilities of P5.3 million, revenues of P45.4 million in 2008 and P60.3 million in 2007 — and only 12 employees.

Placewell International Services has only one employee on record. Yanes gave it P128.7 million to train PCOS machinists in Southern Tagalog mainland and islands, Bicol, and Cordillera Autonomous Region. For another P63.5 million Placewell is to cover Metro Manila. The subcontractor has assets of 4.2 million and liabilities of P621,000. It earned P1.65 million in 2008 and P880,000 in 2007 — way below its automation subcontracts.

Manila Resource Development Corp. is to train operators in Ilocos and five Mindanao regions, including the Muslim Autonomous Zone, for P139.4 million. It has only 25 employees. P2.8 million assets, P137,000 liabilities, P1.9 million revenues in 2008 and P1.6 million in 2007. Manred is to handle Cagayan Valley for a separate P20.2 million.

Recruitment and training has started — most haphazardly, sources say. In some regions trainees already have been fully paid two weeks, and told to return for Election Day duty. But there’s no compulsion for them to show up for one day’s pay. In case they absent, the PCOS units cannot be used to count votes and transmit tallies. Even if Smartmatic’s machines prove to be the best in the world, the automated election may fail from truancy.

Comelec perhaps must look over Smartmatic’s shoulder and check how it’s running the country’s first fully automated balloting.

* * *

Readers are asking who the listed founders are of 1920 Business Inc., the holding company of poll automation suppliers Smartmatic-TIM.

The SEC general information sheet identifies the following directors and officers: Juan C. Villa, Filipino, of Kuala Lumpur, chairman; Nilo S. Cruz, Filipino, of Muntinlupa City; Alberto Castro, Spanish, of Caracas; Lamberto F.L. Lorenzo, Filipino, of Makati; Edgardo W. Valenzuela, Filipino, of Parañaque, members; Ruby Rose J. Yusi, Filipino, corporate secretary; Pablo de Borja, Filipino, assistant corporate secretary; and Ruliena Pinate, Venezuelan, treasurer.


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