Philippine Daily Inquirer

It’s going to be a long, hot, thirsty summer

- (To be continued.)

AS THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN WINDS DOWN, the prophets of doom are sprouting like mushrooms on a wet day: there will be a failure of elections; automated counting machines will fail; the machines will be used to cheat; there will be power cutoffs in many places; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will stay on as President, etc. In other words, no good will come out of our first automated elections in spite of the billions of pesoswe have spent, and are still spending, for it.

The automated election was conceived precisely to prevent cheating that characteri­zes manual counting, but these prophets of doom predict that the result would be worse. At the center of the controvers­y are the machines themselves, Smartmatic, the manufactur­er of the machines and the Commission on Elections.

It doesn’t help that Smartmatic itself, the company, chooses to remain in the shadows of the corporate world. Very few people know who are its top officers, not even the Comelec. The company’s communicat­ion with the public is through its press releases released through its public relations agents.

Has anybody seen a picture of Smartmatic’s president or chairman of the board or even know their name? Does anybody know the interlocki­ng relationsh­ip of Smartmatic Philippine­s with its foreign-owned half, Smartmatic TIM? Does anybody know the incorporat­ors of its Philippine half?

I made some inquiries but all I got so far is a statement from Smartmatic bewailing all the conspiracy theories. “As the company tasked with supplying the technology needed to automate the upcoming elections,” the statement said, “Smartmatic has been painted as one of the bad guys.” Yet “despite all the setbacks encountere­d by the poll automation project, the company has been able to fulfill its obligation­s and is on its way to completing its task of ensuring that this election will not only be automated but will also be credible.”

Why do these conspiracy rumors persist? Smartmatic asked. Who are those behind these rumors? Do they have their own technologi­es to sell? (Too late; Smartmatic already has the ball and is running way ahead of the pack.) Or do they stand to gain more from an antiquated election system?

Smartmatic also has a big interest in the success of the coming election, its statement said. “What most people don’t realize about Smartmatic is that it is a company that aims globally. After establishi­ng itself in the United States, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as a reliable supplier of technologi­cal solutions, Smartmatic is now strengthen­ing its position in Asia. How could the company achieve this should its poll automation project in the Philippine­s fail? Obviously, Smartmatic will have to make sure of its success here if it wants to get more business from the Philippine­s and other countries in the region.”

“Filipinos can feel certain,” the statement continued, “that Smartmatic will not engage in any activity that would undermine the automated election. Furthermor­e, Smartmatic’s technologi­cal solutions and systems have passed the scrutiny of entities such as the Carter Center, the Organizati­on of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU). Smartmatic’s credibilit­y as a solutions provider has been vouched for by equally credible organizati­ons.

“The biggest vote of confidence for Smartmatic occurred just this month. The United Nations Developmen­t Programme has tapped the company to help carry out improvemen­ts in the electoral register of the Republic of Zambia. Smartmatic’s technology was subjected to rigorous testing by the UN. Getting the project is a big achievemen­t for Smartmatic.

“For Zambia, Smartmatic will provide 1,000 mobile electronic biometric registry units called PARmobile. The company also recently provided the same technology to Bolivia and Mexico. It will officially launch PARmobile here in Asia in the comingmont­hs.”

But you don’t have to believe all these selfservin­g statements. The proof of Smartmatic’s technologi­cal savvy, or lack of it, will be proven right here within the next few weeks.

*** The water supply problems ofMetro Manila and Bulacan and Nueva Ecija farms continue to worsen as the water levels in all the reservoirs behind the Luzon dams dropped to their lowest levels. The NationalWa­ter Resources Board (NWRB) has already ordered Angat Dam to stop supplying irrigation water to farms to conserve the remaining water forMetro Manila’s domestic water supply.

Perhaps to assuage the public’s anxiety of not having enoughwate­r for household use, theMetropo­litanWater­works and Sewerage System (MWSS) issued a press release that the two water concession­aires, Manila Water andMaynila­d, will develop “several lowrise dams tapping multiple watersheds like Laiban, Umiray-Sumag, Marikina and Sierra Madre, to boost bulk water supply for Metro Manila….”

This is obviously a press release and nothing more. It will not add a single drop of water to the rapidly decreasing water supply of Metro Manila. Any of these dams will take years and billions of pesos to build. But the need is NOW. Worse, unlike in previous years when it starts raining in May, theweather bureau predicted that the El Niño drought will persist and the rains won’t come until late June. Most likely, the remaining water in the Angat and La Mesa reservoirs won’t last that long at the current rate of consumptio­n. It is going to be a long, hot, thirsty summer.

 ?? Neal H. Cruz ??
Neal H. Cruz

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