‘There has to be legal basis’ to drop Smartmatic – Comelec spokesperson
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot hastily disqualify Smartmatic as the country’s systems provider for automated elections.
A poll body official declared this Monday, even if President Rodrigo Duterte had asked Comelec to “dispose of” Smartmatic in the wake of several glitches and allegations of fraud in recent polls.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez explained that a proper legal process is needed before they could follow Duterte’s request.
“There has to be legal basis… We’re going to have to go through with it legally also, so kailangan natin sundin ‘yung mga proseso,” Jimenez said in an interview after the House inquiry into the May 13 midterm elections.
During a meeting with the Filipino community in Japan on May 30, Duterte said: “I would like to advise Comelec now, I won’t delay this: Dispose of that Smartmatic and look for a new one that is free of fraud.”
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo also refused to give a categorical answer on whether Smartmatic’s technology should be used in the 2022 presidential elections pending the third-party investigation into the glitches being conducted by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Information and Communications Technology.
Jimenez, however, said they remain open to the proposal of dropping Smartmatic.
“Masusing pinag-aaralan ‘yung sinabi ng Presidente… Marami sigurong kailangan gawin bago mapatupad ‘yun but certainly, we are open to that suggestion,” he said.
READ: Palace: May 13 polls ‘credible’ despite Duterte’s wish to junk Smartmatic
Jimenez also echoed Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s explanation that the May 13 midterm election remains credible despite Duterte’s remarks.
“Sinasabi niya (Duterte) lang kailangan wala nang ganoong klaseng pagdududa and we agree with that,” Jimenez said.
Meanwhile, former Biliran congressman Glenn Chong, who lost in the recent senatorial race, claimed of reports on inconsistencies between the vote receipt and the actual vote in various areas, as well as an alleged information “blackout” during the seven-hour glitch after the polls. He called it his “alternative view” to Jimenez’s explanations during the hearing.
ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III also raised the breakdown of hundreds of vote counting machines provided by Smartmatic, as well as the identification of over a thousand defective SD cards and blotting pens during the conduct of the May 13 polls.
But Jimenez dismissed Chong’s claims.
“Siya na mismo nagsabi, alternative niya ‘yun, eh ‘di alternative n’ya. I think it’s very important when you’re talking about items of national import like this, you go with the established facts not the alternative theories, not the speculations; what can be proven ultimately ‘yun ang importante dito,” Jimenez said.
“Kung meron s’yang alternative version ng katotohanan, eh ‘di ilabas n’ya ‘yung kanyang alternative version ng katotohanan,” he added.
As to Bertiz’s concerns, Jimenez said they already held their full payment for S1 Technologies Inc. and Silicon Valley Computer Group that supplied the SD cards for a contract price of P22.6 million; and Triplex Enterprises that provided pens and ballot papers at a cost of P153.8 million pending investigation.
Jimenez lamented they were left with no choice but to follow procurement laws and choose the lowest offer from among qualified suppliers.
He said companies that provided election materials, including Smartmatic, met their requirements, technical specifications, and standards.
READ: Comelec blames ‘bottleneck’ for 7-hour server delay
Jimenez also repeated his earlier explanation on the seven-hour glitch. He said the software pushing data from transparency servers to media outlets and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting’s server experienced a hitch.
He stressed they immediately acknowledged the issue and explained it to members of the media, belying Chong’s claim of an information blackout. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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