In this file photo, teachers of Pinyahan Elementary School conducts testing and sealing upon the arrival of Vote Counting Machine at their school on May 07, 2019.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file
Duterte to Comelec: Smartmatic no longer acceptable
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 30, 2019 - 10:05pm

TOKYO (Updated 10:31 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday night that he wants the Commission on Elections to drop tech provider Smartmatic, saying it is time to replace the firm that has been involved in automated elections in the Philippines since 2010.

He said Smartmatic should be replaced because of issues that plagued the midterm polls.

During a meeting with the Filipino community here, a woman broke protocol and asked Duterte if he could answer a question. 

After the president allowed her, the woman questioned the Comelec's use of Smartmatic vote-counting machines that she said had experienced problems last election.

Duterte told her he was supposed to speak about the matter during his next State of the Nation Address but since he was asked about it, he would answer the query.

'Do not use that mechanism again'

"I will tell the Comelec, it's an independent body. But I will really tell them. Do not use that mechanism again," Duterte said.

"I would like to advise Comelec now, I won't wait for it (SONA) anymore: Dispose of that Smartmatic and look for a new one that is free of fraud," he added.

Duterte said Smartmatic, which also provided the counting machines used during the 2016 polls, "promotes cheating."

"Discard it (Smartmatic) because it is no longer acceptable to me,to the people, and even to the congressmen who are here," the president said.

Duterte questioned Comelec for sticking to Smartmatic despite the issues that hounded its counting machines.

"Anything that promotes cheating, [stay away from it]. Why are you insisting on Smartmatic? Because of bidding?" he said.

Under the procurement law, government projects have to be bidded out.

Duterte went on to urge Comelec to do away with bidding as he claimed that the next election would be facing uncertainties if Smartmatic is retained as service provider.

Some sectors have raised doubts on the results of the 2019 polls because of the malfunctioning of some voting machines and server transmission issues.

 Malacañang has said the results of the election were credible despite the glitches but  has also expressed support for any probe on the alleged poll irregularities.

A majority of the winners of the senatoraial race in the midterm elections were from the administration-backed Hugpong ng Pagbabago. No candidates from the political oppositionfrom the Liberal Party-led Otso Diretso, the Makabayan bloc, or the Labor Win coalitionwas elected to the Senate.

Vote-counting machine glitches

The midterm elections earlier this month saw vote-counting machines malfunctioning, although Comelec said it encountered fewer problems this year than in previous automated elections.

According to early reports on election day, there were around 400 to 600 cases of malfunctioning vote counting machines by midday, a 220% increase against the number that malfunctioned in the 2016 polls.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, is hearing an electoral protest filed by former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo, whom the former senator has accused of poll fraud.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this article was written in Manila and has since been updated with a report from Tokyo)

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