Smartmatic PH banned from ‘all Comelec procurement’
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified Smartmatic Philippines Inc. from participating in any bidding for its procurements.
“We disqualified Smartmatic to participate in all Comelec procurement,” Comelec chair George Garcia told reporters through Viber on Wednesday.
The decision stemmed from a petition seeking to disqualify Smartmatic from taking part in the bidding for the poll system to be used in the 2025 national elections filed before Comelec.
The 11-page petition was filed by former Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., former Comelec commissioner Augusto Lagman, former president of Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines Franklin Ysaac, and retired Colonel Leonardo Odoño.
The petitioners cited Smartmatic’s reported failure to comply with specific “minimum system capabilities” that resulted in alleged “serious and grave irregularities,” pointing to supposed discrepancies between transmitting and receiving election returns from the precinct level to Comelec’s Transparency Server during the 2022 national and local elections.
But Garcia said their decision to ban Smartmatic from all Comelec procurement was not based on this petition.
“It’s not based on the allegations of Rio and company,” he said without elaborating.
Disqualification due to alleged bribery scheme
In a 17-page resolution, the Comelec en banc cited the money-laundering and bribery charges against former poll body chief Andres Bautista as the reason for Smartmatic’s disqualification.
Bautista had been charged with money laundering, conspiracy, and bribery by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), alleging that he received bribe money from top executives of Smartmatic in exchange for assistance to win the Comelec contract.
Comelec said the charges also revealed that Bautista established a foreign shell company used to receive bribe payments from Smartmatic.
Both Bautista and Smartmatic, however, have since denied these allegations.
Due to the gravity of the allegations, Comelec recognized it as an “imminent threat” to the integrity of its democratic processes.
“These allegations not only undermine and cast a shadow over the procurement protocols but also threaten to erode the public’s confidence in the electoral system,” said the Comelec.
“Consequently, pursuant to administrative powers which cover all aspects of election, the Commission is compelled to take decisive action to disallow Smartmatic from participating in the procurement process forthwith,” it added.
According to the Comelec, it has also recommended the permanent disqualification and blacklisting of Smartmatic from all government procurement proceedings.
No irregularities in the 2022 NLE
Meanwhile, contrary to the allegations raised by Rio in his petition to disqualify Smartmatic from bidding in the poll body’s procurements, the Comelec insisted that there were no irregularities in the 2022 national and local elections.
The poll body said that the allegations raised by the petitioner have already been “sufficiently addressed by the Commission at length.”
Despite this, the Comelec said it would authorize, upon motion, a manual recount of ballots in specific areas requested by the petitioners.
“This is consistent with the Commission’s commitment to uphold fair, orderly, and honest elections and to pursue all avenues to strengthen transparency in the conduct of elections,” the Comelec said.