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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Smartmatic ban a bold Comelec move, says Imee

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Disqualifying Smartmatic from participating in the procurement of the 2025 automated election system (AES) is “a bold move” for the Commission on Elections, said Senator Imee Marcos.

Marcos said this shows the commission’s commitment to hold credible electoral processes.

“I think Comelec deserves support for the reforms that it is trying to undertake, provided these have solid legal basis,” said Marcos.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the Comelec should give its reasons for disallowing Smartmatic to join in the bidding of automated machines for the next presidential polls.

Comelec chairperson George Garcia had said it the agency would not exclude Smartmatic from the process unless for a valid reason, then barred the technology firm from participating in all Comelec procurement activities “to maintain the integrity of our electoral process, for the country and for the people.”

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The Comelec said Smartmatic failed to comply with certain minimum system capabilities that resulted in serious and grave irregularities in the transmission and receipt of election return during the 2022 polls.

Also, Pimentel asked if the Comelec “will pierce the veil of corporate identity.”

He asked if the poll body will also disqualify personalities behind Smartmatic.

“We should remind ourselves that corporations act through people,” he added.

In a statement, Smartmatic said the bases for their disqualification were “false, unfair and nonexistent.”

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) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. that the Comelec en banc tackled.

However, Garcia stood firm on the Comelec decision, saying “there is no grave abuse of discretion” by the commission in handing down the ruling.

Garcia said Smartmatic can bring their grievances to the courts, where the agency would answer any legal matters.

“It’s a difficult decision but nonetheless, the right decision,” Garcia said.

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

Smartmatic stressed that it has not been indicted or is 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,” it said in a statement.

The service provider said that disqualifying them based on “mere news reports and unofficial, leaked documents from abroad” is “utterly and facially unacceptable in any jurisdiction, including the Philippines.”

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