Daily Tribune : Smartmatic dragnet

News & Interviews
28 March 2021

By Daily Tribune

Calleja behind 1Sambayan, PPCRV and the Smartmatic system creates a potent formula for the return of the evil society of the past.

There is something unsettling with the man acknowledged to be behind assembling the disparate forces under the yellow political gambit called 1Sambayan, which is banking on high-profile names to form a credible 2022 opposition.

Howard Calleja, who for so long is the counsel of the acknowledged Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), assembled discordant personalities such as retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, President Noynoy Aquino Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, Negros Occidental governor Lito Cosculluela, former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares, former Partido ng Manggagawa congressman Rene Magtubo, former Commission on Audit chief Heidi Mendoza, Jesuit priest Fr. Bert Alejo, De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, retired Rear Admiral Rommel Ong, and Ricky Xavier of the People’s Choice Movement to form the coalition.

The only unifying objective of the group is the return of the age of hypocrisy under the yellow mob that is now threatened with obliteration.

Calleja’s role must be significant in assuring that a repeat of the Otso Diretso debacle of 2019 does not happen.

The lawyer was among those who pushed for the retention of the Smartmatic automated election system in the 2016 elections against the protest of experts and political parties who are after the protection of the people’s will.

In a hearing conducted by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System in August 2015, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair then, Andres Bautista, ardently backed the use of the Smartmatic machines for the polls scheduled the year after amid calls for a replacement.

The excuse then was that Comelec had ran out of time to choose another option in implementing an alternate system for the crucial presidential elections.

The Comelec proposed then the purchase of equipment to refurbish the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and Calleja urged the awarding of a lease contract to Smartmatic.

“It is already nine months before elections, and there’s already a winning bidder for the 70,000 additional only waiting for a notice of award.

So as not to lose any more time for the election, we urge Comelec, hopefully with the support of this committee, to also award the next 70,000 (contract) because that’s the only thing that’s waiting,” he was quoted in the transcript.

“With that we can have a rest as to the time, we can prepare already for the 2016 elections. We will be using the same system. We believe that the supply will be the same so it will be one and the same PCOS machine,” according to Calleja.

While, eventually, the Comelec opted for the lease of vote counting machines, which are newer versions of the PCOS, the equipment still used the Smartmatic system.

Experts after the 2013 midterm elections were calling for a hybrid system where the tally at the poll precinct will be manual while transmissions eventually to the Comelec count are all automated, which they hope will restore the credibility of the polls tainted by the entry of Smartmatic.

Calleja in pushing for Smartmatic said in the 2015 hearing: “And we don’t have any doubts since the 2010 and 2013 elections as certified by the PPCRV as being honest, credible, and fair.”

Both elections were tainted with automated fraud, which triggered calls for the overhaul of the election system and the junking of the Smartmatic equipment.

But for Calleja, the polling was entirely and unassailably clean as he said PPCRV does “not have any doubt that the same (credibility will be present) in the 2016 elections, given that enough time preparation, that it would also be credible, honest and fair.

May we request the Comelec to just go ahead, bite the bullet, your honors, if I may say so, and award accordingly.”

The exchange between Calleja and Bautista during the hearing was also particularly suspicious since the mutual reinforcement was all too obvious.

Bautista said, “We welcome that suggestion and we will take that into account. Again, the PPCRV has been involved in many elections so their advice has weight and we will take that into account.”

Eventually, Calleja’s proposal prevailed and Smartmatic remained the system operator of the automated polls until now.

Calleja behind 1Sambayan, PPCRV and the Smartmatic system creates a potent formula for the return of the evil society of the past.