If not for the weird story that President Arroyo underwent a breast implant operation in a local hospital, I'm pretty sure the heat and public ridicule would not have abated against tech firm TIM, after it threatened to pull out from its partnership with Dutch-Venezuelan company Smartmatic for the automation of 2010 national elections.
For the benefit of readers based outside of the Philippines, TIM (Total Information Management) told the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Monday, Jun. 29, that it was breaking off its joint venture with Smartmatic after the duo was declared the winning bidder for the 7.2 billion peso (US$149.7 million) contract. This, of course, put the nationwide computerized polls--the first for the country--in peril.
An incensed Comelec Jose Melo ordered the two squabbling parties to patch up their differences or face legal actions for "toying" with the poll agency and the bidding process. True enough, before the previous week was out, the two firms kissed and made up.
Clearly, TIM's threat to pull out was ill-advised. I don't know if it was made to divert the public's attention from their partnership's unfinished incorporation papers, but the move certainly backfired. Apparently, TIM did not agree with Smartmatic's say and control of the project despite being merely the foreign partner with a 40 percent-share of the deal.
An alleged 500 million pesos (US$10.4 million) demand by TIM owner Jose Mari Antunez--in order for the partnership to proceed, as he was reported to have uttered--from Smartmatic did not help improve the public's perception of TIM. In short, the tech firm not only provided unnecessary distraction from the preparations of the automated polls, it also attracted intrigues that could have been avoided if it did not make the threat to pull out.
As a reporter covering the local IT beat, I've met Antunez in many industry events, particularly those organized by the IT Association of the Philippines (ITAP) where he is an active member. He also sent his son, whom I assume is his successor at TIM, in one of the forums organized by our group CyberPress when he couldn't make the event himself. The man, I should say, has the right attitude and connections. It's just unfortunate that he made a controversial move that might ultimately haunt him for the rest of his life.
Notes It's still a mystery how many of the guys at Microsoft Philippines have availed of the company's VSP (voluntary separation package) program. But, so far, among those who have been confirmed as beneficiaries of the program include Rafael "Pepeng" Rollan, Jojo Ayson, Abet dela Cruz, Sam Jacoba, Karen Yusi, and Ferdinand Macatangay.
Also, I just came back from a trip from Croatia where I met Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, and Byron Acohido, a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter who is almost a full-blooded Filipino. I'll post a more extensive blog post next week, so watch out for it.