It is the height of incompetency and recklessness that the Commission on Elections had failed to anticipate the possible filing of election protests in its contract with Smartmatic on the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) used in the last elections that has resulted in the plunder of public funds.
It is also not fair for Senator Bongbong Marcos to be blamed for the delayed return of the VCMs to Smartmatic because the COMELEC should have provided a stipulation in its agreement that in case an election protest is filed, this would naturally warrant a delay in the return of the machines.
This is another example of how the Filipino people have again been shortchanged by Smartmatic and COMELEC through the many contracts they have concluded on the conduct of the elections. Contracts entered into with foreign entities should contain provisions that would protect the Filipino people at all costs.
Given our flawed electoral system, it is difficult to believe that the COMELEC was not able to anticipate [the filing of election protests]. The right to vote is guaranteed by our Constitution. So is the right to ensure that our votes are counted.
This ineptitude will cost the Filipino people P2 billion as Smartmatic now moves to collect the said amount based on the “options to purchase” provision in their contract. Because of the failure to return, the VCMs are now considered “sold” and so the COMELEC must pay the huge amount. Can someone please provide the Filipino people with the alleged “options to purchase” provision in their contract?
What is more alarming is the confirmation coming from COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that the implementation of the "option to purchase" will be conducted in a closed-door meeting with Smartmatic.
We also would like to exception on a supposed statement made by COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista that they already made a “constructive delivery” or a paper delivery on November 29 of the machines used in the elections. He was also quoted as saying that on December 1, the poll body announced that it had turned over 97,366 optical mark reader machines and the Election Management Systems but retained 151 OMR machines.
Did the COMELEC inform, much less ask permission from the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, for the return the OMRs given the still existing Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) which enjoins the COMELEC to preserve all elections materials used in the May elections?
With such actions, COMELEC has again showed its brazen and cavalier disregard of the rules and orders of the courts just to oblige to all the requests of Smartmatic. Such actions are a travesty of justice and a direct contempt to judicial processes. Bautista should practice what he recently preached, advocating respect for the PET process.
The COMELEC had previously approved and conducted stripping activities of supposedly “unused” VCMs upon the request of Smartmatic despite the existence of the PPO. Many of the SD cards taken from the “unused” VCMs were found to contain data validating our position that those machines should not have been touched in the first place while our election protest is still pending.
What Smartmatic wants, Smartmatic gets indeed!