By Al S. Vitangcol 3rd | The Manila Times
YES, you read it right — the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is no longer using the technical services of Smartmatic Corp. Of course, this is not my own statement — but rather that of Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez.
Jimenez was one of the guests at our regular News and Nuances, Kapihan at Almusalan (Nanka) media forum on August 23. He was supposed to give his insights as Comelec spokesman on the raging “word war” between Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema and Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon. But I was tempted to segue and move our discussion to the subject of Smartmatic.
I asked him about the Comelec’s plan, if there is one, to follow the President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to “Dispose of Smartmatic…Palitan na ninyo (Replace them).” I myself was surprised at Jimenez’s reply.
He said: “Walang Smartmatic na directly related to the voting noong 2019. Meron sila na electronic transmission. Yuon ang taga parang pinaka wireless na system na nag-transmit ng results. But as far as voting and counting are concerned, wala nang participation ‘yung Smartmatic d’on. ‘Yung makina binili natin sa kanila, pero ‘yung content ng makina, again, hindi na ‘yun Smartmatic. (There are no Smartmatic services which are directly related to the voting in 2019. What they have is for electronic transmission. It is like the wireless system that transmits the results. But as far as voting and counting are concerned, Smartmatic has no participation in it. We bought the machines from them but its contents, again, are not from Smartmatic.)”
My follow-up question was this: “The program running the machine, the software running the VCM (vote counting machines), who developed them?”
Jimenez answered in this manner: “Software running the VCM? Sino nag develop nuon? Kasama pa ‘yan sa 2016, na pinadaan natin sa technical review ng ating source code, international and local source code review. Marami nang input ‘yung ating local initiatives, sa ating IT (Information Technology)
department. Running it, designing it, the input is with the Comelec and of course ‘yung ating source code review. (Software running the VCM? Who developed it? It is still part of 2016, which we subjected to technical review of the source code, international and local source code review. We have so many inputs from our local initiatives, from our IT department. Running it, designing it, the input is with the Comelec and of course our source code review.)”
How about the CCS (consolidation and canvassing system)? He affirmed, “Atin iyon. (That is ours.)”
Finally, I asked permission from him to allow me to write these things on this column. He gave an affirmative response and quipped, “Mabuti iyan para malaman ng mga tao.” (That is good, so that the people will know.) Jimenez claims that there is a misconception, or a misunderstanding, that Smartmatic is still running our elections, where in fact and in reality, they are not. Wow to that.
So, to those who are blaming Smartmatic and those who are pushing for the corporation’s blacklisting, redirect them now to Comelec. After all, it was Comelec that ran and managed our last election — and not Smartmatic anymore.
Do you believe this?
On the other side of the coin, former Camarines Sur governor Luis R. Villafuerte filed before the Department of Justice criminal charges against the officials of Smartmatic, together with former and present commissioners of the Comelec and other unnamed officials and employees.
In his 20-page complaint, backed up by more than 600 pages of documentary evidence, Villafuerte, also a former representative of the third district of Camarines Sur, said the filing of the complaint had a two-fold purpose: “1) to hold the officials of Comelec and/or Smartmatic culpable and accountable for their gross violations of the Automated Elections System (AES) law, their illegal deployment of dysfunctional vote counting machines (VCM), which suffered technical glitches coupled with application programs that tampered with and manipulated the results of the elections, thereby perpetuating fraud, anomalies, and irregularities during the 2016 national and local elections (NLE); and 2) to provide a factual and legal basis to prevent, bar, and disqualify Smartmatic from participating in any future project relative to Philippine elections, particularly beginning the 2022 NLE.”
According to Villafuerte, the decision handed down by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) declared that there were “numerous violations and/or non-compliance by the concerned Comelec and/or Smartmatic officials and employees of the provisions of the Automated Election System Law, RA 8346 (promulgated on Dec. 22, 1997) in relation to RA 9369 and amendments.”
There you have it. Two opposing sides. Jimenez exonerating Smartmatic and Villafuerte charging the latter. I will reserve my opinion on this matter — until it is elevated to the proper court of law.