By Angie M. Rosales | Daily Tribune
Sen. Nancy Binay yesterday sought the immediate convening of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on Automated Election System (AES) to look into the conduct of the 2016 elections.
Binay’s move was coupled with a call to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to suspend poll systems provider Smartmatic from participating in the forthcoming elections until all the controversies in which it is currentlyembroiled in have been resolved with finality.
“There are a lot of issues being raised against Smartmatic even in the 2010 and 2013 elections and so in the spirit of accountability and transparency, Smartmatic should be suspended and not allowed to participate in the forthcoming elections in 2019 or until the cases being raised against the company are resolved with finality,” she said in explaining her filing of Resolution 376.
The senator further justified her call to immediately constitute and convene the oversight panel and look into the allegations against Smartmatic, saying the charges, if proved to be true, will have a far-reaching effect on the country’s democratic processes.
“It’s our right to suffrage that is at stake here and Smartmatic has been the service provider since 2010 and until now, issues are being raised and filed against it. Prudence dictates that we should not allow Smartmatic to tinker with our elections until all issues against it are resolved,” Binay said.
Binay was referring to the reported indicted recently of some Comelec and Smartmatic personnel for cybercrime charges in connection with alleged alterations of the transparency server’s script during the 2016 national elections.
Precinct count optical scan machines were used in the May 2016 elections.
Among the high-profile electoral protests filed was the one by former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Comelec and Smartmatic are being accused by petitioner, Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, of allegedly intentionally altering the election data at the height of the transmission of votes without any right or authority and the Department of Justice (DoJ) found probable cause to file charges for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
In suspending the Smartmatic from taking a role in any of the future electoral exercise, Binay emphasized the need to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and remove doubt on the reliability of the systems.
The senator also noted that Smartmatic is also facing other criminal cases with respect to its conduct of the 2010 and 2013 elections.
In convening the JCOC on the AES, Binay said the proceedings will provide the much-needed venue to make public the many issues that had plagued the conduct of national polls last year.
Reforms are needed to be implemented not only in the AES law but in the Comelec itself to correct the practice of its officials of virtually ceding control of the elections to Smartmatic, she stressed.
In her resolution, Binay also called on the Comelec Advisory Council to immediately submit its report on last year’s elections as it noted that it should have been submitted within six months from the conduct of the elections.
Under the law, the JCOC is mandated to conduct a mandatory review of the implementation of the AES and make recommendations to Congress every 12 months from the date of the last elections.