Smartmatic-PCOS and the Bautista exposé

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Of course it can be expected that most will be more interested in the Andy and Patricia story than the deeper reasons that it should happen at all. To this column, we should not be distracted from the more important lesson and duty of Filipinos.

It has to do with the money to be made in the automated election system – Smartmatic PCOS. It did not begin with the 2016 elections but with the 2010 elections or perhaps even earlier when the decision was made to switch from manual to automatic electoral system. There were defects in the manual system but these could have been corrected. To me, the best correction would have been to adopt a different political structure – that is to switch from presidential unitary to parliamentary federal.

A good example for this is India which is one of largest democracies. They came here to sell their system and explained how they conduct their election. The way I understood it the first consideration was the huge number of illiterate voters. Like them that should be also our first consideration. We would need to restructure our political system to include them in the election system. That means smaller subdivisions of the population or going federal. There should be little time for dagdag-bawas or the tedious process of moving votes from precinct to town to province to Manila where cheating and corruption happen. The party that wins in the local elections are added and known immediately by the voters in the precinct themselves while they watch the counting. They vote for parties using symbols that illiterate voters understand. For example dog for liberals, cat for conservatives and lion for radicals. All they need to do is choose from these symbols. Counting for the winning party takes place on the day of voting at the precincts. If the lions win the biggest number of votes the party then chooses who they would vote for as prime minister. If there is a deadlock between winning party candidates they then go to coalitions to achieve a majority. This is of course a rough sketch of what we could do here in the Philippines. The key is to restructure into a parliamentary federal system.

The question I would ask is why Comelec should have engaged Smartmatic when it was already in disrepute with several suits filed against it in other countries. Indeed it did not matter to Comelec that turning over the electoral system to dubious machines was unconstitutional. And we let it go in 2010 despite all the doubts and questions of reformers.

When Andy Bautista was named PCGG chairman I and many others cheered because of his background and a good reputation. He was a friend whom I knew as a co-member of the 2005 Constitutional Commission organized during Arroyo’s administration. You know, the usual presumption was that he is from Ateneo, good family and well connected.  He reminded me that he visited me in London with the Diokno sisters. As PCGG chairman, I shared my documents on the Imelda trial in New York with him so we would both have complete sets of the hearings. When President Noynoy appointed him as Comelec chairman, I thought it was a good move and that we could expect honesty and integrity in corruption ridden Comelec.  I did ask him if he would go against the President if he needed to. He said, “yes.”

This column dug deeper into the Smartmatic-PCOS system and found there was more to it than the debate on whether we should return to manual in 2016. With the information, I would say categorically we have no choice but to discard the automated electoral system being forced on us by Smartmatic. It will not be an easy task. It demands a single minded and purposeful battle against Smartmatic, its system and the machines it has been peddling to corrupt officials.

At first, we were merely looking at big money being traded each time we had elections – money to buy votes, money to buy politicians’ favor, money to campaign and so forth and so on. The desire for good governance and the election of capable, meritorious candidates was out of the equation. Presidential elections had become a business and made millionaires even billionaires out of incompetent but popular personalities.

After googling for information on Smartmatic and its chairman, Mark Malloch-Brown, there was more about him that we should know.

He was central to the puzzle of why Smartmatic had such power and would not yield to any investigation or threat.

Prior to being Smartmatic’s chairman, he was vice-chairman of the George Soros Investment Funds and the administrator of the UN Development Program.

Wayne Madsen of the Strategic Culture Foundation wrote that “nowhere is the Soros and CIA influence felt more than in the UN Development Program.” He said that “many UN staffers have links to the CIA” like Lynn Pascoe and Gregory Starr, both UN undersecretary generals. Malloch-Brown was also the UN deputy secretary general.

It would be a mistake if we were to miss the essential lesson of the Andres-Patricia Bautista marital fight. It is both personal and public.  We should not limit it to the crimes committed. It will not change things even if we impeach Andres Bautista as Comelec chairman. There will be another Andy Bautista who can and will be corrupted with the political structure we have. That is touching only the surface. And yes, Patricia is a heroine. She was instrumental in bringing out the scandal to Duterte and to the public. More than ever the case for a government with revolutionary powers has become urgent. Instead of wrangling about his impeachment, we should simply abolish the Comelec. The corruption is both in the higher and lower levels.

God or whatever force there is beyond us is making it finally possible to change the way our country is run. The Andres and Patricia Bautista struggle brings us back to the question: is it coincidence or destiny? We are being given all the chances to change. Shall we take it or leave it?

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