Comelec chief steps into Smartmatic-Dominion squabble

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes has finally intervened in the squabble between Smartmatic International Corp. and Dominion Voting System.

In an election forum organized by the Angara Centre for Law and Economics, Brillantes yesterday revealed that he has been talking with the “highest official” of Dominion to try and resolve the issue between the two companies.

“They are actually just fighting over financial (matters). Pera-pera lang… Let’s not complicate the issue about Dominion and Smartmatic. I don’t think that’s a big issue,” he said.

The poll chief expressed hope that the dispute would be settled within two weeks.

But whatever happens, he said the “Philippine election will not be affected by their fight over money.”

Dominion is the owner of the system used by Smartmatic in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that it supplied to the Philippines for the 2010 and the 2013 polls.

In May 2013, Dominion terminated its global licensing contract with Smartmatic, prompting the latter to sue Dominion before the Delaware Chancery Court in Florida.

Brillantes said he tried to get the consent of Dominion for the certification of the source code review conducted by the Denver-based SLI Global Solutions on the automated election system but the company refused.

He said that SLI was requiring Dominion’s approval before issuing the certification.

“(But) even if Dominion does not (agree), we will still proceed with the automated election,” he added.

Asked if this would not violate Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law that requires the certification of the source code by an independent and expert body, Brillantes said the Comelec is prepared to “justify” its moves.

“We already prepared our legal arguments that we can proceed with the automated election, regardless of Dominion and Smartmatic. We are giving that assurance,” he said.

The law requires the source code review and that it be kept in escrow at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Smartmatic president for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores was surprised when told about Brillantes’ pronouncement.

Flores has denied that the source code has not been reviewed and that certification could not be issued without Dominion’s consent.

“Software was reviewed already, finished, end-to-end testing is ongoing. Trusted build was concluded and the certification should come out in a couple of weeks. Actually before Feb. 13, by SLI,” he said.


CBCP fears massive cheating

As this developed, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed fears of wholesale cheating in the coming May 13 polls if the Comelec does not address concerns on automation.

“What we are saying is that we should be careful in using the PCOS machines because if we are not careful, the cheating may happen at the level of the machines. That is why we have to understand there are still questions and these should be answered by the Comelec,” CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said.

CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said that they would also rely on the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV) to help in the information dissemination and monitoring during the election.

The CBCP officials met with resource persons, including Brillantes, for the coming elections during their three-day Plenary Assembly.

The bishops reportedly raised concerns such as the PCOS but Brillantes argued that no protest against the machines has thus far succeeded.


Disqualified party-list groups still hopeful

Meanwhile, members of the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PM) trooped to the Supreme Court (SC) to demand the immediate resolution on pending petitions seeking the reversal of a Comelec decision disqualifying several groups from participating in the coming May 2013 elections.

“It is in the interest of all parties, not just the party-list groups and the Comelec but most especially the voters, that the dispute over Comelec’s disqualification of party-list groups be settled with dispatch,” PM official Bong Palad said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin


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