Poll watchdog group: Aquino allies favoring Smartmatic to ensure 2016 poll victory
MANILA, Philippines – Some administration lawmakers have been accused by the poll watchdog group Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) of firming up the mechanism for the election victory of President Benigno Aquino III’s bets in the 2016 national polls by ensuring the continued services of Smartmatic.
In a statement, C3E said on Sunday “this could be the main reason why leaders of the pro-administration House of Representatives turned a blind eye on the frailties of the Smartmatic-supplied precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the last two national elections.” C3E did not name the lawmakers it was referring to.
“What we are trying to understand is why some leaders of Congress have apparently turned defenders and apologists for Smartmatic,” noted C3E co-convenor Nicanor Elman.
He asserted “if ever elections push through next year, the Smartmatic cheating machine seems part of the grand equation for the administration.” Elman said they were “particularly indignant at the manner by which some Liberal Party congressmen took turns in assailing a recent decision of the Commission on Elections’ Bids and Awards Committee disqualifying Smartmatic and another bidder for the supply of additional voting machines.”
“The congressmen went overboard. Overstretching legislative undertones, they obviously sounded more like lawyers and defenders of Smartmatic,” he also said.
The controversial firm was reportedly disqualified by the Comelec for having submitted a bid with no price indication on several items.
Indra Sistemas, the other bidder, was also disqualified for placing a bid higher than the approved budget for the contract.
Elman added, “A number of congressmen revealed their bias towards Smartmatic and even manifested questionable motives over that of the national interest of ensuring clean and credible elections.”
Alain Pascual, another C3E co-convenor, observed: “Glaring is the hairline ground for which Smartmatic was disqualified even on the face of its blatant violations and more compelling grounds of ineligibility.” “Smartmatic should have been disqualified much earlier when the bidding process started and for even more glaring offenses,” he said.
Cesar Flores, Smartmatic president, brushed aside anew C3E’s allegations against their company.
In a text message, he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Ask them what personality they have as a non-government organization, given the fact that no registration of C3E was found at the Securities and Exchange Commission.” He also urged this reporter to “look into the connections of C3E and the National Transformation Council,” which has been pushing for the ouster of President Aquino.
Earlier, Flores accused Smartmatic’s critics of being “members of a vote-cheating syndicate” and “people working for our business competitors.” The Integrated Bar of the Philippines had asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Comelec’s award of a P268-million PCOS refurbishment deal to Smartmatic without a public bidding.
Similar petitions were filed by C3E and AES Watch, another poll watchdog group, before the high tribunal.
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