IT is “not fair” to former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to be blamed for the delayed return by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the unused vote counting machines (VCMs) to Smartmatic that might cost the government P2 billion.
Marcos’ spokesman, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, stressed this point amid reports that the Comelec has blamed the former for the delayed return of VCMs to Smartmatic because these were used in his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Marcos has filed a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) against Robredo’s victory in the May 9 elections amid reports of massive poll fraud. She won over Marcos by more than 200,000 votes.
Rodriguez said 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 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,” he said.
Rodriguez said that because of the failure of the poll body to return them, 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?”
“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,” he said.
“It is the height of incompetence and recklessness that the Commission on Elections had failed to anticipate the possible filing of election protests in its contract with Smartmatic on the VCMs used in the last elections that has resulted in the plunder of public funds,” he said.
He added: ”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.”
“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,” he said.
“We also would like to take exception to a supposed statement made by Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista that they already made a ‘constructive delivery’ or a paper delivery last Nov. 29 of the machines used in the elections,” he said.
Bautista was also quoted as saying that last Dec. 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 of the OMRs given the still existing Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) which enjoins the Comelec to preserve all elections materials used in the May elections?” Rodriguez asked.
“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 of judicial processes. Bautista should practice what he recently preached, advocating respect for the PET process,” he said.
Rodriguez noted that the Comelec had previously approved and conducted stripping activities of supposedly “unused” VCMs upon the request of Smartmatic despite the existence of the PPO.