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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Smartmatic questions as ‘unfair’ Comelec’s disqualification ruling

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A supplier of election counting machines assails as “unfair” a decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying it from participating in all procurement activities of the poll body.

Election technology provider Smartmatic asserted that the Comelec’s bases for disqualification were “false, unfair  and non-existent.”

In a statement, Smartmatic said the grounds used to disqualify them “were not even part of the complaint” of the group of former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. that the en banc tackled.

However, Comelec chairman George Garcia justified the decision handed down by the Comelec’s en banc, saying “there is no grave abuse of discretion” in  issuing the ruling.

In a press conference, Garcia said the Smartmatic can bring their grievances to a higher court and the Comelec would answer any legal matters with regards to the decision to exclude Smartmatic from future procurement processes.

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“It’s a difficult decision but nonetheless, the right decision,” Garcia stressed. He declined to comment further.

Smartmatic alleged that the decision to disqualify them was based on the allegations of bribery against former Comelec chairperson Juan Andres Bautista “in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp.”

Smartmatic, for its part, maintained that it has neither been indicted nor facing any formal charge in the United States, in relation to Bautista’s case.

“Thus, we can categorically state that the basis of our disqualification is not only false, but non-existent.  A false accusation and, more so, a disqualification on the basis of non-existent grounds is not only legally and morally wrong, but plain unfair,” the first said in a statement.

It added that disqualifying them based on “mere news reports and unofficial, leaked documents from abroad” are “utterly and facially unacceptable in any jurisdiction, including the Philippines.”

“On the part of Smartmatic, we assure the public that the allegations made back about contracts awarded by Comelec to our company in 2015-2016 are absolutely false. It will be dismissed once the investigations are done. We assure the public that as a company policy, we adhere to all procurement processes during biddings and contract execution. But pending the definitive conclusion of an investigation, punishing Smartmatic will not only be premature, but inconsistent with Philippine law, including its procurement laws,” Smartmatic said.

According to the en banc resolution, it was revealed that Bautista supposedly established a foreign shell company, which was used to receive bribe payments from Smartmatic.

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