Smartmatic: Comelec basis for DQ ruling ‘nonexistent’

Smartmatic: Comelec basis for DQ ruling ‘nonexistent’

/ 05:32 AM December 01, 2023

Smartmatic Philippines Inc. has accused the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of using a “nonexistent” basis to eliminate the “biggest competition” faced by other poll technology providers bidding for the multibillion peso contract to provide the country with a new automated system for the 2025 midterm elections.

Smartmatic insisted that it has not been charged in court in the United States alongside the reported bribery and money laundering case filed by US authorities against former Comelec Chair Andres Bautista in connection with the poll body’s procurement of vote counting machines from Smartmatic in 2016.

“We would like to clarify that we are not facing any such formal charge in the United States. Thus, we can categorically state that the basis of our disqualification is not only false, but nonexistent,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.


“A false accusation and, more so, a disqualification on the basis of a nonexistent grounds is not only legally and morally wrong, but plain unfair,” it continued.


On Wednesday, the Comelec’s seven-member policymaking board voted 5-1, with one on leave, to grant the petition filed last June by a group led by former information technology chief Eliseo Rio Jr. to disqualify Smartmatic from the upcoming bidding for the contract to provide a new electronic voting system for the 2025 elections.

While it upheld the integrity of the results of the 2022 elections, Comelec disqualified Smartmatic from all election-related public bidding based on the US government’s investigation and eventual indictment of Bautista in relation to the contract awarded to Smartmatic in 2016.

Doubtful timing

Smartmatic questioned the timing of its disqualification since the Comelec special bids and awards committee will open the bids from election technology providers on Dec. 12.

“The net effect of the surprise disqualification is to exclude Smartmatic from the bid process, eliminating the biggest competition for the remaining bidders,” the company said.

Aside from Smartmatic, the Comelec has identified only two other firms—Pivot International of the US and Miru Systems Co. Ltd. of South Korea—which had bought the bidding documents for its Full Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count (FASTrAC) project as of Oct. 31 this year.

Smartmatic complained that it was not allowed by Comelec to explain its side and present evidence to refute the alleged bribery.


“Disqualifying Smartmatic in the ongoing bidding for the 2025 voting machines and future procurements on the basis of mere news reports and unofficial, leaked documents from abroad, which have yet to be verified by the US Department of Justice, is utterly unacceptable in any jurisdiction, including the Philippines,” Smartmatic argued.

Smartmatic added that the Comelec should have afforded it the presumption of innocence since “investigations nor indictments do not automatically amount to guilt, nor does it affirm one’s innocence. That’s what legal proceedings are for.”

Legal basis

Comelec Chair George Garcia and Commissioners Socorro Inting, Rey Bulay, Ernesto Maceda Jr., and Nelson Celis held a news conference on Thursday to affirm their decision to ban Smartmatic from all election-related public bidding.

Garcia maintained that the Comelec had a legal basis to disqualify Smartmatic based on its constitutional mandate to oversee all election matters.

“When you say plenary power, that is very vast. Even the Supreme Court agreed that the power is vast and that the hands of the Comelec are not tied,” Garcia pointed out.

He disputed Smartmatic’s complaint that the Bautista case was not cited as a ground in the disqualification petition.

“A series of documents were filed by the petitioners… (The bribery case) is in one of the documents filed. Meaning to say, it wasn’t made secret among the issues discussed. There were supplemental petitions,” Garcia said.

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Garcia also said that the public hearing last Oct. 17 that gave the parties time to submit their formal statements on the disqualification petition constituted due process.

TAGS: Comelec, disqualification, Elections, Smartmatic

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