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The Manila Times - Is the Comelec chief’s alleged unexplained wealth connected to Smartmatic?

News & Interviews
12 August 2017

By Al S. Vitangcol III | The Manila Times 

THE National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Automated Elections System Watch (AES Watch), the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), and other election watchdogs have been assailing the accuracy, reliability, and dependability of Smartmatic-supplied election equipment for the longest time.

These groups have questioned the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines when it was first used in the 2010 national and local elections (NLE) and then again in the 2013 midterm elections. The same Smartmatic machines, renamed as vote counting machine (VCM), were again utilized in the 2016 NLE. As expected, there were allegations of vote rigging, tampering, VCM manipulation, and fraud. Rumors abound that the mafia operating within the Comelec is in cahoots with Smartmatic.

As usual, there was no corpus delicti (body of the crime) because of its digital nature. It was entrenched deep inside the machine, in its secure digital card (SD card), or in its random access memory (RAM).

In 2010, I headed a team of information technology experts to conduct forensic analysis on the abandoned PCOS machines found in Antipolo City. We wanted to do more but we were constrained by time and restrained by Smartmatic. The PCOS machines were then returned to the custody of Smartmatic.

Recently, it was suspected that vote manipulation took place in Comelec-maintained transparency servers and were perpetrated by no less than Smartmatic’s own technicians. Of course, Comelec denies any complicity.

I commiserate with these election watchdogs. They can only speculate and trace back from the election results. No “smoking gun” (conclusive evidence of a crime), so to speak. Not until now…

It all started with Angry Bird
Sometime in March this year, popular television and radio host Arnold Clavio publicly announced that a certain presidential appointee, anonymized as “Angry Bird,” would be at the receiving end of multiple court actions courtesy of his estranged wife. The court cases were expected to be filed to coincide with the birthday of the government official.

Clavio added that the wife discovered a condominium unit, owned by the same public official, and when she forced her way into the unit she found a “whip,” various bank deposit slips, other incriminating documents, and P400 million in cash. Further, the wife was under the care of a prominent lawyer, from whom Clavio had confirmed the details of his blind item expose’. And according to the lawyer, the financial documents that they found amounted to about P2 billion.

Angry Bird is Andres Bautista
The “gossip” from Clavio turned out to be true, as later events would show. Angry Bird is Andres Bautista.

Last weekend, Patricia Paz Bautista claimed that Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista has unexplained wealth and that she had already sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte on what to do with the passbooks, bank and real estate documents that she found bearing the name of Bautista. The President then summoned National of Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran and she was endorsed to him. Patricia then executed an affidavit, which is now with the NBI for case build-up.

On Monday, Senator Grace Poe said that she had “nothing personal” against the beleaguered Comelec chief but the allegations of ill-gotten wealth cannot simply be dismissed as a domestic problem because it is “imbued with public interest.”

Indeed, they should not be ignored.

Smartmatic payoffs?
In several national interviews, Bautista admitted that he accepted commissions (or referral fees) from the Divina Law Office. It must be noted that the same Divina Law Office is the legal counsel of Smartmatic.

One cannot help but wonder whether these commissions are payoffs from Smartmatic.

Likewise, there were persistent rumors that three senatorial candidates for the 2016 NLE deposited huge amounts of money in the bank accounts of Bautista to ensure their victory. These monies were apparently deposited in tranches as early as three months prior to election (May 2016).

Similarly, there were stories that another candidate for a high national position paid the Comelec mafia to pad the election count by about six million votes. However, the latter claimed that another candidate for the same position had paid them first. Giving in to bigger pressure, they refunded the payment of the first candidate and accepted the higher payment of the second candidate.

Who can manipulate the election results? Is it only the COMELEC officials? Is it only the Smartmatic technicians? Or is it both?

Let Bautista do the explaining
Now, how do we connect Bautista’s presumed unexplained wealth with the purported Comelec mafia? It is rather simple. Review the dates of the bank transactions and correlate them with the election timeline.

Then force Bautista to answer all the questions that can be thrown at him. Where did these deposits come from? What are the amounts (from where the commissions were computed)? Why were they deposited in tranches?

Will Bautista lay open the existence of a rumored Comelec mafia? Will he reveal Smartmatic’s supposed inducements? Let Bautista do the explaining.

It is time for the Filipino people to know the truth behind the convoluted Philippine elections.