Smartmatic decries ban

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Smartmatic decries ban
Women cast their vote at Pasong Tamo Elementary School in Quezon City during the automated mock barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on August 8, 2023.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Smartmatic Philippines Inc. has decried as unfair its disqualification by the Commission of Elections (Comelec) from all poll-related biddings, including the ongoing bidding for voting machines to be used in the 2025 midterm elections.

After 15 years of providing automated voting machines, technology company Smartmatic was disqualified by the Comelec on Wednesday from participating in future elections in the Philippines.

“First, we would like to clarify that we are not facing any formal charge in the United States. Thus, we can
 categorically state that the basis of our disqualification is not only false but nonexistent. A false accusation and, more so, a disqualification on the basis of a nonexistent ground is not only legally and morally wrong but plain unfair,” Smartmatic said in a statement.

In a resolution released Wednesday, Comelec said “it cannot overlook the serious, unresolved allegations against Smartmatic related to previous elections.”

The poll body stressed that the disqualification order had nothing to do with the 2022 presidential elections as there were no irregularities then, but the alleged bribery scheme involving Smartmatic in 2016.

Although the allegations spanning three elections have not been proven, Comelec said the gravity and potential damage to the public warrant proactive measures to safeguard the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.

 “It (Comelec) surprisingly decided to disqualify Smartmatic on grounds that were not even part of the complaint by Rio, et al., grounds that we were not even allowed to comment on or respond to,” Smartmatic noted.

The firm said that “disqualifying Smartmatic in the ongoing bidding for the 2025 voting machines and future procurements on the basis of mere news reports and unofficial, leaked documents from abroad (which have yet to be verified by the United States Department of Justice) is unacceptable in any jurisdiction, including the Philippines.”

 “On the part of Smartmatic, we assure the public that the allegations made about contracts awarded by Comelec to our company in 2015-2016 are absolutely false. It will be dismissed once the investigations are done,” it added.

Meanwhile, Comelec said that Smartmatic’s disqualification does not affect the bidding on FASTrAC or the Full Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count.

 “The procurement and bidding will continue. Deadline for the bidding documents is on Dec. 12. We will invite all. We will then know the offers and who wants to participate,” Comelec Chair George Erwin Garcia said at a press briefing yesterday.

Last June, former Comelec commissioner Augusto Lagman, former Department of Information and Communications Technology secretary Eliseo Rio, retired Col. Leonardo Odoño and former Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines president Franklin Ysaac filed a petition for the disqualification of Smartmatic.

They asked the poll body to declare Smartmatic ineligible to participate in public biddings and procurements for the 2025 automated election system.

The petitioners alleged that the May 2022 national and local elections were marred by “serious and material irregularities,” particularly in the transmission and reception of voting results.

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