Ex-Comelec exec warns of ‘sham’ PCOS bidding
MANILA, Philippines–A former election commissioner—whom Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. has called an “attention seeker” and “troublemaker”—has warned against a “possible sham bidding” in the purchase of 23,000 more voting machines worth P2 billion for the 2016 presidential election.
Former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman, now one of the leaders of election watchdog AES Watch, said on Tuesday: “That can happen, that can very well happen.” AES is short for Automated Elections System.
Citing the Comelec’s reported insistence to include AES provider Smartmatic in the bidding and the possibility of a negotiated contract, Lagman said “something is really fishy.”
Referring to reported glitches in the Smartmatic-supplied precinct count optical scan or PCOS machines used during the 2010 and 2013 elections, Lagman said “it doesn’t make sense.”
“Why is Smartmatic still being allowed to participate in the bidding?” he said, enumerating a number of “election law violations” allegedly committed by the foreign firm.
Lagman, an information technology (IT) expert referred to, among other things, “the absence of a digital signature, the failure of some CF cards, the open ports that left the PCOS machines susceptible to third-party manipulation, and Smartmatic’s nondisclosure that it did not own the software.”
Reached by phone on Sunday, Brillantes, who was in the United States on an official trip, brushed aside Lagman’s “repeated tirades against the Comelec and Smartmatic.”
“There’s nothing new in what he’s saying. He has yet to prove any of his accusations,” he said, calling the former poll official an “attention seeker” and “trouble maker.”
AES Watch has joined the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections, or C3E 2016 coalition, which recently called for barring Smartmatic from the Comelec bidding.
C3E, which groups together nearly a dozen nongovernment organizations, including a group of IT specialists, warned against a “large-scale electronic manipulation of the 2016 elections if Smartmatic remains the supplier of the automated elections systems.”
Lagman denied Brillantes’ claim that his group was critical of Smartmatic because it was selling other automated election systems.
“What crock is that? We are not vendors of election systems. We only want the Comelec to do the right thing. It’s easy to cheat using the PCOS machines. The Comelec is wrong. Worse, they’re using taxpayer money,” he said.
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