ELECTION watchdog Citizens for Clean and Credible Election (C3E) on Tuesday accused proadministration legislators of paving the way for the victory of President Aquino’s presidential candidate in 2016, by ensuring that Smartmatic-Total Information Management will remain as the country’s sole provider of automated voting machines for next year’s elections.
C3E co-convener Nicanor Elman said this could be the main reason key leaders of the proadministration House of Representatives “are suspiciously turning a blind eye on the frailties” of the Venezuelan company’s Precinct Count Optical Scan machines used in the past national and local polls.
“What we are trying to understand is, why some leaders of Congress had apparently turned defenders and apologists for Smartmatic,” Elman said in a statement.
“If ever the elections push through, the Smartmatic cheating machine seems part of the grand equation for the administration,” he added.
Elman said that a number of congressman revealed their “bias for Smartmatic,” and even manifested questionable motives over that of the national interest of ensuring clean and credible elections.
“There have been plenty of issues raised against Smartmatic, even as far back as 2009. We wonder why not one among these members of Congress has come out and asked questions about Smartmatic’s numerous acts of omission and misrepresentation,” he said.
Elman went to the extent of challenging the alleged “congressman-defenders” to debate over the issues raised against Smartmatic.
“Since they have come forward in defense of Smartmatic, we challenge them to publicly debate over the merits of Smartmatic. We are convinced that Smartmatic should not be allowed to participate any longer and cause further damage to our electoral system,” Elman said.
The C3E is particularly protesting the manner by which Liberal Party congressmen took turns in assailing a decision of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) last week disqualifying Smartmatic and another bidder for additional counting machines for submitting unresponsive bids.
He said that, while the decision will set back preparations for the 2016 elections, the congressmen “went overboard.”
“Overstretching legislative undertones, they obviously sounded more like lawyers and defenders of Smartmatic,” Elman said.
He said that what the administration congressmen refused to see was the Comelec’s failure to identify the more compelling and solid grounds to exclude the Venezuelan company from the bidding.
Smartmatic was disqualified by the Comelec BAC for having submitted a bid with no price indication on several items.
Fellow bidder Indra Sistemas was also disqualified for placing a bid higher than the approved budget for the contract.
Earlier, C3E, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Automated Election System Watch filed separate petitions before the Supreme Court, seeking to enjoin the Comelec from awarding any contract in connection with the 2016 elections to Smartmatic owing to its failure to comply with the country’s elections laws and other violations.
Meanwhile, the Comelec said that it is expecting between 1 million and 2 million voters to skip next year’s elections.
“We don’t expect to come down to zero naman…more or less mga one [million] to two million iyong potential na hindi na talaga boboto,” Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said.
He said this would include those who failed to vote twice in previous elections; those who died; those who migrated; those who are convicted and those who gave up on the electoral system.
Jimenez said having an estimated two million voters not having their records validated is already acceptable for the Comelec.
“Our goal has always been to bring that number down…basta dapat walang ma-disfranchise,” Jimenez said.
Currently, the poll official said they have already brought down the number of registered voters who have been found to be without biometrics data to 4.7 million, from the 9.6 million last May.
Voter validation is defined as the process of adding a registered voter’s biometrics data into his or her existing registration record.
Republic Act 10367, or the Mandatory Biometrics Registration Act of 2013, provides that voters who fail to submit for validation prior to the May 2016 elections shall be removed from the voters’ list and shall not be allowed to vote.
Biometrics data refer to the automated identification of an individual, particularly his or her photograph, fingerprint and signature.
Meanwhile, the Comelec called on private and public schools to open iRehistro centers in their establishments to help encourage their students to become registered voters.
Jimenez said they are hoping that school administrators will accomodate the online accomplishment of voter-registration application system of the Comelec.
“We’re calling out to schools to get in touch with us and then we’ll come to you and set it up, para matulungan naman ang mga kabataan natin,” Jimenez said.
He said the help of the schools is crucial in ensuring that students would have access to registration facilities by providing a special area, computer units and Internet access.
Voter registration for the 2016 elections will be until October 31, 2015.