Poll watchdog hit for claiming ‘midnight deal’ between Comelec, Smartmatic
MANILA, Philippines–The chair of the House committee on suffrage castigated an elections watchdog for putting the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in a bad light with claims of a supposed “midnight deal” for the repair of vote counting machines.
Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro on Tuesday criticized Evita Jimenez, executive director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg), for giving “unsubstantiated” criticisms against Comelec.
This after Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. lamented Cenpeg’s criticisms of an alleged “midnight deal” with Smartmatic, manufacturer of the Precint Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, during a hearing on 2016 polls preparations by the House suffrage and electoral reforms committee.
Attending the hearing three days before he retires on February 2, Brillantes said the group kept on criticizing a supposed deal with Smartmatic who was endorsed by the poll body for the diagnostics and refurbishment of the 82,000 PCOS machines used in the 2013 elections.
Jimenez said Comelec failed to comply with the procurement rule on public bidding by treating Smartmatic as a “favored vendor.”
“Why ignore the process of public bidding? Why talk to this favored vendor? Why are there secret meetings with Smartmatic?” Jimenez said.
Brillantes said the government procurement law allows foregoing public bidding on certain conditions.
In this case, the poll chief said Smartmatic is most capable of repairing and refurbishing the machines because it is the manufacturer, he added.
The poll chief clarified that the Comelec is still negotiating the price with Smartmatic.
“It is not a midnight deal. There is no secret dealing,” Brillantes said.
“They think it is a secret meeting because they want to know everything that is happening in the Comelec, like they want to replace us,” the poll chief said of his critics.
Castro asked Jimenez to refrain from giving “unsubstantiated” claims.
“What this committee appeals to this group is that you should exercise restraint in coming up with statements putting Comelec in a bad light,” Castro said.
“If the integrity of the Comelec is under siege for something unsubstantiated, the attack against Comelec militates the democratic system. Because the government’s legitimacy is under cloud of suspicion,” Castro said.
The poll body is now conducting public bidding for the purchase of 23,000 new PCOS machines for next year’s elections.