The Philippine Star - Banning Smartmatic a step toward an election system free from foreign intervention, fraud — watchdog

By The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Blacklisting Smartmatic as the automated election system provider is a step toward achieving an election that is free from fraud and foreign intervention, a poll watchdog said Thursday.

Kontra Daya said the Commission on Elections should heed President Rodrigo Duterte’s advice to get rid of Smartmatic in the wake of technological glitches that marred the conduct of the May midterm elections.

“It is not enough, however, for Smartmatic to just simply be blacklisted in the Philippines. Duterte and the Comelec should state categorically, as a matter of national policy, that there shall be no foreign intervention in the country’s election system from now on,” Kontra Daya said.

It added the Philippine government should demand full reimbursement of the billions paid to Smartmatic “for the damage it has done in the four automated election cycles in the country.”

The Venezuelan-owned company has been the poll technology provider since the Philippines shifted from manual to automated elections in 2010.

Speaking before the Filipino community in Tokyo Thursday, Duterte urged the Comelec to “dispose” Smartmatic and look for a new service provider.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would carefully study the advice of the president but discounted the possibility of excluding Smartmatic from future biddings.

“Kakailanganin natin ng legal basis to ban any supplier,” Jimenez said.

(We need a legal basis to ban any supplier.)

Technical hiccups such as defective vote counting machines, corrupted SD cards and hours-long delay of update from the poll body’s transparency survey as well as alleged cheating incidents raised questions on the credibility and integrity of the May elections.

Despite the glitches, the Comelec said it successfully held the midterm polls. — Gaea Katreena Cabico