The Commission on Elections may be compelled to pay its technology provider Smartmatic P2 billion due to delayed return of vote counting machines used in the May elections.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon revealed Sunday that Smartmatic is now considering the unreturned VCMs as “good as sold.”
The Comelec failed to return the VCMs on time due to the protest filed by losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“We only leased the machines with no bidding and now you say they’re as good as sold? What is this?” she said in Filipino.
Guanzon said Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista has granted the request of Smartmatic for a closed-door meeting with all the commissioners to iron out the problem.
But Guanzon said she would not attend the meeting because it might send the wrong signal to the public. She suggested instead an en banc meeting without Smartmatic.
“Why should I attend? What will be decided during that meeting? What will be fixed behind closed doors? People might think we are conniving over the P2 billion,” she said.
In a separate interview, Bautista said the Comelec requested to defer the delivery of some VCMs to Smartmatic because of the electoral protest filed by Marcos before the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
Marcos has filed election protest against the proclamation of Vice President Leni Robredo who won by a slim margin of 260,000 votes.
Bautista said Smartmatic’s move to charge the Comelec P2 billion for the unreturned VCMs is based on the “options to purchase” provision in the contract that the Comelec signed with the poll technology provider.
But he said the Comelec had already made a “constructive delivery” or a paper deliver on November 29.
On December 1, the poll body announced that it had turned over 97,366 optical mark reader machines and the Election Management Systems but retained 151 OMR machines.
At the same time, Bautista said the meeting between Smartmatic and the Comelec was approved by the commissioners, not just by him.
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