By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz | Philippine News Agency
MANILA—Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio, Jr. on Monday said Smartmatic Philippines Inc. faces stiff competition and must improve its service if it hopes to remain as the country’s automated election system (AES) operator.
During an ambush interview at the DICT’s AES technology fair at UP Diliman, Quezon City, Rio said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may replace Smartmatic with any of several AES providers that are proposing different AES concepts if the company does not change or improve any of its services.
“They have to compete now with so many concepts, with so many ideas. So kung ‘yun pa rin ang kanilang ipo-propose, talagang matatalo na sila. So they have to improve (So, if they propose what they’ve already done in the past, they will lose),” Rio said.
He, however, clarified that Smartmatic is not being barred from becoming the country’s next AES operator.
“Wala naman talaga nagbabawal sa kanila, except they have to come up with an improved version as per instruction of the President (Nobody is preventing them from becoming operator of the next election. But they do have to come up with an improved version as instructed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte),” Rio said.
The DICT official said improvements in transparency and employing a form of manual counting will boost the Filipino voters’ confidence in an AES.
“Kung gusto nilang sumali, magkaroon na rin sila ng manual counting na very transparent. Kita ng publiko, ng media, kung paano binilang ng machine ang mga shaded (If Smartmatic wishes to join, they should have manual counting that’s transparent. The public and the media should be able to see how the machine counted the votes),” he said.
Rio, however, clarified that the DICT only presented concepts and improvements from other AES providers to the Comelec and that the commission has the last say on the matter.
“Independent po sila. Kung sabihin ng Comelec na Smartmatic pa rin tayo, walang maka-object dun. Pero sasagot sila sa mga tao (They are independent. If Comelec says that Smartmatic will stay, no one can object. But they will answer to the people),” he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the Comelec has legal basis to drop its partnership with Smartmatic after hundreds of vote counting machines and SD cards malfunctioned in the mid-term national and local elections on May 13, 2019.
“Kahit anong paliwanag mo, kapag pinagdudahan ka na, may problema ka na. Iyon ang ayaw ni Presidente, iyong nagkakaroon ng pagdududa ang tao (No matter what explanation you give, if the public doubts you, you have a problem. That’s what the President doesn’t want, that people start to doubt the credibility of the elections),” Panelo said. (PNA)