Smartmatic obliged to provide thermal paper—poll lawyer
The thermal papers from Smartmatic-TIM are not a mere donation but part of its obligation, an election law expert said Friday.
Atty. Romulo Macalintal said “the reported ‘donation’ by Smartmatic to Comelec of 1.1M rolls of thermal paper should not be treated as such.”
He said the thermal papers given by Smartmatic-TIM were more for its protection and interest which is to insure 100% compatibility with the 94,000 Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) it leased to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to the tune of P10.3 billion.
“As supplier of thermal paper, Smartmatic would feel more confident if it has direct control and supervision in the production or manufacture of the thermal paper that would be fed into the VCMs convinced that its quality would not be compromised,” Macalintal said.
Smartmatic submitted an P84-million bid to supply the thermal paper but lost to a local company with a P50-million bid.
“Thus, Smarmatic would rather lose P5OM than face the consequence of being blamed in case something happens in the issuance of these voter’s receipts such as paper jam and similar unforeseen incidents during the voting,” Macalintal added.
Voting 6-1, the Comelec en banc has approved the 1.1-million rolls of thermal paper from Smartmatic. It will be used for the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in the vote-counting machines.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the lone dissenter in the case, said the act of accepting the donation can be considered graft.
“I believe that receiving a donation from Smartmatic who is doing business with Comelec, is graft,” she said.
Macalintal said to avoid any legal controversy, the Comelec should treat the supply of thermal paper as part of Smartmatic’s obligation in leasing the 94,000 VCMs to Comelec because one of the “minimum system capabilities” required of these VCMs under the law is the “voter verified paper audit trail” which, as recently interpreted by the Supreme Court, refers to the “voter’s receipts” to be issued to the voters after casting their ballots. IDL
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