Raps filed vs ex-poll execs, Smartmatic
MANILA, Philippines—A poll watchdog group has filed graft and corruption charges with the Ombudsman against former officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) led by former Chairman Jose Melo and officers of Smartmatic and Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) for “imperiling” the 2010 and 2013 elections with the use of “highly suspect” and “terribly faulty” precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
In a 41-page complaint, the Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) accused the respondents of “involvement and conspiracy with one another in the negotiations for, the drafting of, and the implementation of the unconstitutional and illegal PCOS automated electoral system for the 10 May 2010 and 13 May 2013 national and local elections.”
AES officials, led by Fr. Joe Dizon, said this was just the first step in the group’s bid to end the use of PCOS machines starting with the 2016 elections.
AES plans to file on Thursday a separate or supplemental case with the Ombudsman to investigate incumbent Comelec officials led by Chairman Sixto Brillantes, who are immune from lawsuit while in office, for the massive failure of the PCOS machines in the recent elections, which it expects would serve as a basis for their impeachment.
The group blamed past and present Comelec officials for entering into “irregular, graft-ridden contracts” with Smartmatic-TIM worth P15 billion.
Aside from Melo, others charged were former Comelec Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Armando C. Velasco and Leonardo Leonida; directors Jose Tolentino Jr. and Bartolome Sinocruz Jr.; consultant Renato B. Garcia and technical evaluation committee members Denis F. Villorente, Ferdinand de Leon and Reynaldo Sy.
The Smartmatic-TIM officials charged were Cesar Flores, Julian Villa, Armando Yanes, Salvador Aque, Alberto Castro, Jacinto Perez Jr. and Marian Ivy Reyes-Fajardo.
Aside from Dizon, the complaint was signed by Rodolfo Noel Lozada, Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, Gregorio T. Fabros, Hector Barrios and Evita Jimenez. Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. was supposed to lead the complainants at the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday but he was indisposed.
“The Comelec then under Chairman Jose Melo started the whole poll automation mess in 2010. For the 2013 elections, the Comelec under former election lawyer, Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr., has committed blunder after blunder in the poll automation process to cover up the major noncompliance of Republic Act No. 9369 and industry standards on security, accuracy and transparency by its foreign technology supplier,” the AES said in a statement.
AES lead counsel Rommel Bagares said the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM’s negligence in implementing the Election Modernization Act had made them liable for violating provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
He said the Comelec officials could also be held liable for violations of the Revised Penal Code for dereliction of their duties.
Curiously, Bagares said the AES could not impute any motives on the Comelec or Smartmatic-TIM for deploying faulty PCOS machines in the elections.
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