By Ma. Reina Leanne Tolentino | The Manila Times
The spokesman of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Saturday raised the need to ban Smartmatic Corp. from serving as the country’s election service provider amid allegations of fraud and irregularities in past elections.
Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, spokesman of Marcos, said Smartmatic should not have been allowed to provide counting machines for use in the mid-term elections next year.
Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino revealed earlier that the Commission on Elections had renewed Smartmatic’s contract to supply vote-counting machines.
“I believe, now that Secretary Francis Tolentino has raised the issue, and it is only now that we have a no-nonsense and very strong political will type of leadership under President Rody (Duterte), e ako’y naniniwala ito’y talagang susuriin, bubusisiin at sana naman ay huwag ibigay muli sa Smartmatic itong pagiging election service provider (I believe that this will be thoroughly scrutinized and we hope that Smartmatic will no longer be allowed as an election service provider),” Rodriguez told reporters.
Tolentino, presidential adviser on political affairs, had claimed that the deal between the Comelec and Smartmatic was highly irregular.
The Comelec has maintained that its decision to renew the firm’s contract was above board.
Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia earlier told the Manila Times that it is not true that the contract was signed in secrecy.
Guia also said that the decision was made “after months of consultation with stakeholders, meetings with the advisory council.”
But Rodriguez said the contract should be set aside.
“We’re looking at a question to be raised before the Supreme Court to set aside that contract or maybe the Comelec on its own should meet again en banc and, you know, talk among themselves,” Rodriguez said.
The lawyer said their camp is focused on Marcos’ election protest. Last week, the retrieval of ballots started in Camarines Sur for the recount of vice presidential votes.
Malacañang on Saturday reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his hands off the election protest filed by Marcos against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
In a press briefing in Ilocos Norte, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte has no intention to influence the Supreme Court, which will sit as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to decide on the petition of Marcos.
“Ang Presidente po kasi ay isang abogado at alam niya na mayroon tayong tinatawag na separation of powers.
Ang dumidinig po ng election protest ay ang Korte Suprema habang sila po ay umupo bilang Presidential Electoral Tribunal (The President is a lawyer and he knows that there is what we call the separation of powers.
The one that is hearing the election protest is the Supreme Court which is sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal),” Roque said.
“So ang Presidente po hands off naman kapag hindi niya jurisdiction. Ito po ay katungkulan ng Korte Suprema at inaasahan naman niyan ng Korte Suprema na gagawing lahat para maresolba itong election protest na ito (So the President is keeping his hands off when it is not under his jurisdiction. This is the mandate of the Supreme Court and we hope that the Supreme Court will do everything to resolve this election protest),” he added.
Marcos has questioned Robredo’s victory, saying that he was a victim of fraud.
Robredo won the vice presidential race by a slim margin of more than 200,000.
Earlier this week, Marcos showed photocopies of what he described as “shocking” and “highly questionable” ballot images from Camarines Sur and Negros Oriental, two of the three pilot provinces in his election protest.
In some of the ballot images, even though two or more candidates were shaded in the vice-presidential position, the votes still went to Robredo, instead of being considered “overvotes,” the former senator said.
“We discovered in some ballots that if the votes were for me, they were not counted and were considered undervotes. So that’s why the undervotes for the vice presidency were high, more than three million. But my opponent got the votes even if these were not supposed to be counted in her favor,” Marcos explained.
During the organizational meeting of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, Sen. Francis Escudero revealed to Comelec officials the alleged discrepancies between the main secure digital (SD) cards and the backup cards used in the 2016 national and local elections.
“I have records to show that the backup is not a mirror image of the main SD cards, a lot of them,” Escudero said.
Escudero made revelation after the Comelec failed to provide the committee data that would show how many of the backup SD cards were used during the previous elections.
According to the senator, a backup card was supposed to be used whenever the main SD card encountered a problem.
The Comelec officials explained that they did not have the records because the vote-counting machines only recorded IP or Internet Protocol addresses and did not know whether the main or the backup SD card was used.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE