Philippine Daily Inquirer

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

- (To be con­tin­ued.) Business · Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo · Gloria · Commission on Elections · Philippines · Telecom Italia · United States of America · Africa · Asia · European Union · United Nations · Zambia · Bolivia · Mexico · Manila · Bulacan · Nueva Ecija · Angat · Marikina City · Metro Manila · La Mesa, CA · Smartmatic · Carter Center · Manila Water · Sierra Madre, CA

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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