Originally posted at Questions regarding the transfer of PCOS to a smaller warehouse
A small news item, “Anti-graft group slams transfer of PCOS to Laguna” on People’s Tonight (February 20) was disturbing. The article said that “leaders of the Movement Against Graft and Abuse of Power (MAGAP) claimed the transfer of the 90,000 PCOS machines without inviting monitors from protesting parties, and even the media, to witness the relocation process had created overwhelming renewed public doubt—this time on the integrity of votes in CF cards for recounting and one proper identity of its corresponding PCOS machine that covers Roxas’ 2012 protest and other 62 protest cases in 2013 polls”.
The article of the transfer of the PCOS machines to a smaller warehouse now piqued my curiosity.
I met Jonas Siniel, spokesperson of MAGAP the day before this news report came out and he also told me the same story. Honestly, I did not want to believe any of this until I saw some proof. Of course, he said that I should not believe anything until I have evidence. Jonas then arranged an ocular inspection. I also confirmed with Commission of Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez on twitter regarding the PCOS transfer. Jimenez said the “PCOS have been transferred to a smaller, no-AC but insulated, warehouse, almost directly in front of where they used to be stored .”
I arrived at the Cabuyao Light Industrial Science Park at around 3:00 PM on Thursday along with Jonas and two other friends. I spotted a light ochre building with a green roofing material to my right right across the old PCOS warehouse. Our van slowly drove down the road until I spotted an open door to the warehouse but it was too dark to take a photo. “Maybe we could pass by later” I told everyone as we proceeded to Power Serve Inc.
The frontage of the white warehouse read “Power Serve Inc. Certified Warehouse Management and Servicing of Election Electronics Devices”.
Who is Power Serve Inc.(PSI) and its relationship to Smartmatic? That’s another question that needs to be probed further.
I was there to check out the lease availability of the ISO-certified facility and its capacity. The PSI guy immediately handed me the layout. He told me the floor area of the 14 unit-warehouse is 25,089.52 square meters on a 34,061 square meter lot.
When he told me the lease price was 130 pesos per square meter, I computed the total lease price as roughly 3.3 million a month. I wonder why the 3.3 million pesos a month is much lower than what Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes mentioned which is “P5.5 million or P6.4 million a month as rental fee”. Why the huge difference?
The warehouse was airy, clean and still contained remnants of the PCOS operations. It felt like PSI was just waiting for their old client to go back so it kept its previous layout as it was. In this wing, Unit 3 was already occupied. The PSI guy told me that Unit 1 to 8 used to be the testing area while Unit 9 to 14 that covered roughly 10,000 square meters served as the storage of the PCOS machines. The latter wing had new tenants whose lease contracts end on May 2014.
Unit 1 contained an air-conditioned memory configuration room and training room. It even has a signage that “the contents of this Memory Configuration room (MCR) are the property of the Commission on Election and are under the Precautionary Protection Order dated August 31, 2010 issued by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (Supreme Court)”
Unit 2 housed the PCOS verification area complete with conveyer belt. Unit 3, was already rented out while Unit 12 was the only vacant unit in the other wing.
So why did Comelec move these PCOS machines to much smaller space?
Brillantes intention to move to a smaller warehouse is because “7,000 square meters is enough for storage compared to the 10,000 square meters or one hectare they initially rented.
“We are not going to do any assembly. Not until three years later. This is purely storage and maintenance”.
Granting Comelec wanted to save on expenses, was there a notice of transfer to concerned parties like AESWatch , protesting candidates like Mar Roxas, or the Presidential electoral tribunal? According to an SMS from Ernie del Rosario , former Comelec IT Department head, “the transfer of PCOS machines is preparation for mulled selling of old PCOS units which will cause permanent disappearance of forensic evidence of fraud still in these machines’ innards”.
MAGAP has other concerns:
1. Was there a public bidding?
2. Does the warehouse have the facilities and amenities crucial to its maintenance and systems testing as part of the preparations for the 2016 national and local elections?
I wanted to take a peek into the new warehouse to see how the PCOS machines were stored but the gate was already closed. A lady guard with a “Comelec” badge on her shirt and a sleepy guard were by the warehouse door.
Was it just financial consideration that prompted Comelec to move to a smaller warehouse? My questions to Comelec are:
1. Can we see the facilities of the new warehouse? With a smaller space, how are the machines stacked?
2. Is there a maintenance facility to ensure that the PCOS machines are still working by 2016?
3. Why is there a disparity in the lease price?
Based on the lease price given to me by PSI, it is 3.3 million per month for the whole 25,000 square meters, not 6.1 million a month. Chair Brillantes in a June 2013 report mentioned that they were moving to a cheaper warehouse with an area of 7,000 square meters which is 1 million pesos a month. It is just about the same cost if Comelec had leased from the old warehouse. If Comelec only needs 7,000 square meters, PSI is currently leasing that much for only 910,000 pesos a month.
4. Why worry with a few thousand pesos when Congress has given Comelec a budget for warehousing and maintenance?
Congress gave Comelec a supplemental budget because it was understood that PCOS can still be used for succeeding elections.
5. What is the inventory of PCOS machines? 82,000 or 90,000? How many are actually inside that warehouse? Can we have an independent audit?
6. How is the integrity of the machines protected? With the 62 electoral protest in 2013, the CF cards need to be read with the corresponding PCOS machines. Can you still identify the corresponding PCOS machine?
7. Was the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (Supreme Court) informed of the transfer of the contents of the Memory Configuration room (MCR) ?
If these PCOS machines are not well maintained, then it may be junked in order to buy new ones. Federico Pascual in his column “Postscript” said that selling the PCOS machines “is a neat way of finally getting rid of part of the evidence of alleged massive automated manipulation of elections. The machines have actually been tinkered or tampered with after their use in May 2013 compromising their value as evidence of electoral fraud. That should not have been allowed.”
Comelec needs to address these concerns way before the 2016 elections. As a voter, I want to know the PCOS condition in the warehouse. Like Jonas, I want to secure the 2016 elections where the true Filipino sentiment is heard and true winners are proclaimed.
What about this petition?
Questions are still being raised with no answers in sight. The petition is still pending in the Supreme Court.