Comelec defends disqualification of Smartmatic
MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday justified the disqualification of Smartmatic from its procurement biddings and pointed out that the decision was carried out administratively.
The development came after Smartmatic, in a statement also on Thursday, claimed Comelec’s basis for its disqualification was “false and non-existent. “
Smartmatic argued the disqualification was “legally wrong” and “unfair,” stressing that it hasn’t even been indicted in the United States (US) for the bribery charges against former Comelec chief Andres Bautista.
Smartmatic officials said they were not given the opportunity to respond to the grounds Comelec used as the definitive basis for disqualifying it.
Comelec Chairman George Garcia, however, said in a press conference that the election body stands by its decision to disqualify Smartmatic.
“It was a very difficult decision, but nonetheless, it was the right decision, and we will stand firm on what the Comelec en banc has decided,” said Garcia.
According to Garcia, Comelec executed the decision through its quasi-judicial and administrative function.
“Ang ibig sabihin, ‘pag (what this means is that if it is an) administrative function, we can act based on something we are fully aware of, not necessarily because it is contained in any petition or whatever,” said Garcia.
Garcia added the basis for the disqualification — or the alleged bribery scheme between Smartmatic and Bautista — was actually contained in supplementing documents to the petition responded to by Comelec.
“In fact, during the hearing of the case, andiyan ‘yung issue na ‘yon, Bakit hindi nila counter? ‘Di ba kung ‘yon ay kasama sa alegasyon, dapat kinounter mo? Kasi sa aming mga lawyers, pag hindi mo sinagot, that is a general denial – and a general denial is a weak denial,” said Garcia.
(In fact, during the hearing of the case, that issue was present. Why didn’t they counter it? If that is included in the allegation, shouldn’t you counter it? Because for us lawyers, if you don’t answer, that is a general denial – and a general denial is a weak denial.)
“The point really is – aware ang lahat, aware ang respondent na nag-e-exist ang [case] which happened abroad. Kung sinasabi nila na walang ganoon, then, perhaps that should be contained in their petition in the Supreme Court,” he added.
(The point really is – everyone is aware, the respondent is aware that the [case] which happened abroad exists. If they are saying that there is no such thing, then, perhaps, that should be contained in their petition to the Supreme Court,” he added.)
Garcia noted with Comelec’s administrative power, it could have decided to disqualify Smartmatic without even a case, but instead, they let the petition run through “extensive discussions and hearings.”
“Kayo na lang ang mag-conclude kung nagkaroon ng violation of equal protection laws or selective justice so to speak,” Garcia told reportes.
(It’s up to you to draw your own conclusion whether or not there was a violation of equal protection laws or, so to speak, selective justice.)
On the question of whether Smartmatic was given the opportunity to defend itself, Garcia insisted it was provided the chance to address the allegations.
“The Rio (Eliseo Rio Jr.) petition and et. al. is not a single petition. There are other documents doon. So ibig sabihin, kung pinasagot ka rito, malamang lamang pinasagot ka rin doon. Kung hindi ka sumagot doon ay it’s your call bakit hindi ka sumagot doon. Ang importante, you were notified,” said Garcia.
(The Rio petition is not a stand alone petition. There are additional documents associated with them. This implies that if you were asked to respond here, it’s likely you were also asked to respond in the others. If you chose not to answer, that’s your decision. But it’s essential to recognize that you were notified.)
“As far as the Comelec is concerned, we afforded everyone — petitioner or respondent — the opportunity to be heard,” he added.
Smartmatic insists it was not informed of the charges in the US.
Following the press conference, Smartmatic in a statement, further asserted it had not been informed about the inclusion of bribery charges in the allegations against them.
“It is grossly misleading, therefore, to claim that we have been accorded our right to due process,” the tech provider said.
“On the contrary, we find the decision to have been very arbitrary and was marked by grave abuse of authority,” it maintained.