TIM's Pullout: Did the Comelec know beforehand?

Well, we are practically back to square one. Back to manual voting, that is.

I am of course venting with regard to Total Information Management Corp’s. (TIM) surprising(?) decision to pull out of the consortium that would finally modernizing elections for 2010. The consequence of this decision to pullout has been laid out by Comelec Chair Jose Melo himself: we are probably looking at the same, old, cheat-prone, manual system of voting next year.

When asked about the pullout, Melo pointed to “irreconcilable differences” between TIM and Barbados-based Smartmatic (which also should explain). Come on! Can a firm that has been accredited and allowed to transact with the government just walk away like that? Can a firm that the country is relying on for clean elections just walk away because of simple “irreconcilable differences”?

This is not an annulment process between an estranged husband and wife!

TIM will need to do better than come up with a flimsy excuse. And rightfully so, they SHOULD be sued for such reckless action. When a firm conducts business with government — whether it is with the Comelec or any other agency — commitments, agreements must be followed through.

But of course, we are not just holding TIM responsible. The Comelec has more explaining to do. Media sources say that TIM is short on funds. So why again were they accredited, to begin with? Then, there are groups that don’t want the automation to push through, with the consortium at the very least. Was the pullout the result of a demolition?

Not surprisingly, speculation is also rife about another conspiracy theory. Whether real or imagined, the timing of the pullout is suspect, when it is considered with the explosives at the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Agriculture.

Also do consider: prior to TIM’s pullout, the Comelec had already announced the formation of a crisis/contingency team should anything happen that would derail efforts to prepare for and implement the elections. And prior to this, the Comelec did raise its own worries about NO-EL for next year. In the field of crisis communication, this is a strategy to soften the blow of negative news. So I respectfully ask, was the Comelec aware of the pullout even before it happened?

The Comelec has a lot of explaining to do. But more importantly, it needs to lay down its definite action plan at the soonest to prevent further speculation of NO-EL for next year.

The most important question, of course is, how can we ensure that 2010 will not be a repeat of 2004? Everyone has been worried about automation, that it would be prone to cheating. This is valid. But personally, we should be more worried about sticking to the same old way this country does its voting and counting where it’s cheating as usual.

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