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Militants seek probe to check if PCOS provider ‘shell’ firm

/ 01:15 AM January 31, 2015

DAVAO CITY—Militant party-list group Bayan Muna yesterday renewed its call to ban Smartmatic from the government contract for the automated elections and called for an investigation of reports the company was a shell corporation.

A shell corporation is a company either formed without real assets or to hide the identity of its real owners and the extent of its assets.

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“This is a very serious matter that should have prompted the Comelec (Commission on Elections) to take a second look before granting it the multi-million contract without the benefit of public bidding,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate told the Inquirer by text message.

“Was there a serious and thorough vetting process made before Comelec awarded the automated election system contract to Smartmatic in the 2010 national elections? Was there a serious and complete vetting process after that and even now?” he said.

Zarate said it appeared that Smartmatic had become the favorite of some Comelec officials, “thus, it is not surprising that this allegation against the company, which has been raised for quite some time now, is being swept under the rug.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Smartmatic was no global leader in automated elections after all.

Colmenares, in a statement by Bayan Muna, said the Venezuelan company granted by Comelec a P300-million contract for the diagnosis and repair of over 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, failed to give the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms information on the number of countries it had provided with national automated election systems.

“This briefing has been revealing to say the least,” Colmenares said.

Smartmatic representative Alastair Wells, replying to questions on the company’s claim as the “leading expert in election technology,” said the company had “approximately 500 employees” but couldn’t tell how many countries Smartmatic had served in automated elections.

“I don’t know off the top of my head,” Wells was quoted as saying at the hearing.

Colmenares said the 500 employees that Smartmatic employs was way below the 40,000 employed by competing bidder Indra Sistemas S.A.

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“You don’t even have at the top of your head how many national elections you have managed and yet you claim you are the best in the whole world to run this election?” Colmenares said.

Zarate said serious doubts surrounding the legitimacy of Smartmatic and the unresolved questions that attended past automated elections threaten to put the fate of the coming 2016 presidential and national elections in jeopardy.

“There’s the danger that the true will of the people will once again be subverted,” Zarate said. “Thus, we call on Congress to exercise its oversight functions and to fully investigate Smartmatic,” he said.

Zarate said the investigation should be pursued further “since it appears now that the whole automated election process is at issue,” he said. “It might be high time to consider adopting a mixed system of elections like manual voting and automated canvassing to ensure that such things shall not happen again,” he said.

Zarate said he hoped that the Supreme Court would rule favorably on petitions questioning the Comelec’s decision awarding the repair of the voting machines for the 2016 elections to Smartmatic. “Instead of further pampering Smartmatic, it should be banned even,” he said. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Alastair Wells, Bayan Muna, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Neri Colmenares, PCOS, Precinct Count Optical Scan, Smartmatic
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