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Daily Tribune : Staying on course

News & Interviews
3 June 2021

By Chito Lozada | Daily Tribune

Alarm buttons have been pressed after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced the notorious poll equipment supplier Smartmatic won again in the bidding for the contract to refurbish the vote counting machines for the 2022 national and local elections.

Advocates of credible polls are now asking what became of the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte in June last year to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Comelec to search for a replacement for the poll technology being provided by Smartmatic.

Former Comelec auditor Art Besana said Smartmatic won over the lowest bidder for a “flimsy” reason.

The only other bidder, Power Serve Inc. (PSI), lost due to its failure to indicate a “zero” or a dash in its bid documents.

What raised eyebrows was that PSI’s bid of P490 million was lower by P147,443,308.45 than Smartmatic’s bid of P637,443,308.45.

PSI is now appealing for the Comelec to reconsider its decision. The persistent preference for Smartmatic is making a lot of people worried again, according to Besana.

He said the Philippines as the oldest democracy in Asia was threatened after it started automating its election in 2010.

“Filipinos will never forget these national and local elections, the first by automation technology, by Smartmatic voting and counting machines, that resulted in a nightmare. It was a total disaster in terms of the quality of executive and legislative officials elected and the colossal anomalies perpetrated by elected officials.”

Besana noted the 2010 elections was followed by an equally devastating 2013 midterm election, and then by the 2016 national and local elections that were all tainted with credibility issues.

The questionable integrity of the 2016 elections was overcome by the landslide victory of then Mayor Duterte of Davao City, Besana indicated.

The huge 6.6 million margin over then administration standard bearer Mar Roxas was believed to have been too much for the Smartmatic manipulation to suppress.

Nonetheless, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte estimated that her father lost from one million to two million votes to cheating despite the 16.6 million votes he garnered.

In the 2019 elections, Mr. Duterte’s candidates swept the senatorial race after Smartmatic broke away from partner Dominion, which many believed resulted to a distortion in its automation technology and thus its manipulation capability.

Besana appealed to Mr. Duterte’s moral suasion and will to effect a total change in the electoral system to keep the nation away from the situation in which money and influence dictate who are chosen as leaders.

“Mr. Duterte’s belief in the Supreme Being, his exhortation of the Filipino people to practice selflessness, his sheer will that far extend beyond the realm of politics and government reveal in a man an almost childlike sense of joy and a profound love of country and the children of his fellow countrymen,” explained the former official.

Despite the critics, Mr. Duterte had shown his strong belief in the Supreme Being.

Besana noted, for instance, that on 8 December 2017, President Duterte delivered an early morning message that was most inspiring to both the elders and the young of our land:

“The Blessed Virgin Mary’s exemplary life of piety and virtue honored today by our Catholic faithful nourished the spirituality of our people as they in turn become agents of compassion and justice in our society.”

In December 2017, Duterte signed Republic Act 10966, declaring 8 December of every year as special non-working holiday in the Philippines, in commemoration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Also, as proof of the inspired guidance provided by the President was the rapport and friendship of President Duterte with the heads of state of Russia and China that have immensely benefited the Philippines.

The camaraderie between and among them has been unprecedented, not attained by his predecessors, according to Besana.

Mr. Duterte’s leadership quality plus his accomplishments can be used as a weapon to insure a clean, honest, peaceful and credible national and local elections come 9 May 2022, he added.

Indeed, a lot is at stake in the political exercise next year, and it would be crucial that the process is clean and credible that the President, with the strong mandate behind him, can effectively assure.