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Comelec says Smartmatic might be charged after May polls

/ 10:13 PM February 09, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Smartmatic International could face charges after the elections for failing to provide the enhancements for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in the May balloting, the head of the Commission on Elections said Saturday.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the election body was not ruling out filing a case against Smartmatic after it failed to include the enhancements following its falling out with its erstwhile corporate partner, Dominion Voting System.

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“It has some legal implications in a sense that we can sue Smartmatic since (the enhancements) are mandated in our option to purchase agreement. So, they should give those to us,” Brillantes said in an interview.

He said there were “eight minor” enhancements that should have been included in the more than 80,000 PCOS machines that the Comelec bought from Smartmatic in March 2012.

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“These were not included because they fought and, even if Dominion agrees, there’s no more time (to add them). But they are not significant. They are not important,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes clarified that they were not yet thinking of suing Smartmatic since the Comelec was in the middle of its preparations for the May elections.

Brillantes has another beef. He lambasted broadcast networks for opposing the limits that Comelec imposed on political ads of candidates in the 2013 elections.

In messages from his official Twitter account, Brillantes accused media of being more worried about their profits than about the public interest.

“The issue on airtime limits should not be obfuscated with the freedom of speech and of the press, when the real issue of these media entities is revenue,” Brillantes said in one tweet.

“Even the candidates did not question the regulation of airtime limits, then why should the ‘medium’ of speech complain for the candidates?” he said.

GMA Network and the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas do not agree with Brillantes.

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In a statement issued Saturday, GMA said it has gone to the Supreme Court to seek a temporary restraining order against the  Comelec’s airtime rules while its petition to junk the controversial provisions is being heard.

In its petition, GMA said the time limits imposed by Comelec are “so restrictive that they amount to State-sponsored suppression of the right of the people to know their candidates, and the right of the candidates to bring across their qualifications and platform of government to the people, which are integral to the right of suffrage under Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution.”

The new airtime rule is “a throwback to the days when the so-called political ad ban was in effect…thereby contradicting the intent of the Fair Elections Act,” GMA countered.

Contrary to Brillantes’ claims, the rules prejudiced the lesser known candidates or political parties, GMA added.

Argued GMA: The airtime limits constitutes “an infringement of the constitutionally protected freedom of speech, of the press, and of expression.” The implementing guidelines also put unreasonable demands on media entities to monitor other media providers, GMA said, adding that this would entail enormous added financial and logistical burdens on their part.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas has also assailed the constitutionality, legality, and practicality of the new rules.

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Air Time, campaign, Comelec, election 2013, May elections, Media, Smartmatic, technology
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