Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Tuesday warned Smartmatic that it will not get away for violating protocol because she is determined to get to the bottom of the controversial tweak in the script of the transparency server on Election Day.
Guanzon gave the warning even as Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista appeared lukewarm to her proposal to bar officials of Smartmatic from leaving the country.
“You watch us, serious… that’s why I exposed it so that they will know that we are serious. They are assuming that because we did not question them before, everything is alright. The people are entitled to know the truth,” she said.
“We ought to know if something is wrong, who committed it [tweaking], and why,” Guanzon added, The commissioner had said that she wanted to look into the possibility of blacklisting Smartmatic from future Comelec biddings.
Guanzon earlier asked the Comelec en banc to direct Smartmatic to issue a memorandum order prohibiting their officers and employees from leaving the country pending results of investigation of the unauthorized alteration of the script or hashcode of the transparency server owned by the Comelec.
But Bautista and Smartmatic spokesman lawyer Karen Jimeno said Guanzon’s call was “unnecessary” as Smartmatic is willing to cooperate with the probe.
“I don’t think everybody [in Smartmatic]is thinking about leaving [the Philippines].
Nobody has told me they are leaving,” Bautista added. “At this point, it’s not necessary.”
Jimeno confirmed that Smartmatic officials have no plans of leaving the country.
She questioned the claims of Bautista, Guanzon and Comelec Senior Commissioner Robert Christian Lim that there was a breach of protocol when the new script was introduced into the server by Smartmatic’s project director Marlon Garcia without first informing the commission en banc.
“Before anyone alleges that there’s a breach of protocol, I think what’s important here is first to look at whether there was a protocol for a minor change like the correction of a typographical error and what the protocol is. Where is it contained and to determine if there is a breach and what the penalties are,” Jimeno pointed out.
She said the alteration of the script could not have been carried out without a member of the Comelec putting in the other half of the password into the computer.
“Because on the day the typographical error was corrected, a Comelec ITD (Information Technology Department) officer was also present, and in fact it was the Comelec officer that typed in the password in order for Smartmatic to make the change,” Jimeno added.
But her statements did not sit well with Guanzon.
“Karen is just doing her job. But she should not tell me that what I’m doing is unnecessary, maybe she wants my job. She is just doing her job, but I think she should use her words carefully,” the commissioner said.
Guanzon added that Smartmatic has liabilities under its contract with the Comelec, which include penalties and a performance bond amounting to 12 percent of its contracts.
Smartmatic supplied the 92,500 Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) used in the just concluded polls for some P10.37 billion.
Guanzon cast the lone dissenting vote when the seven-man poll body approved the lease contract for the 1,600 broadband global area networks (BGANs) six days before the May 9 elections at the request of Smartmatic.
She said the lease of additional BGANs was made through direct contracting, which, the commissioner noted, is a violation of the Government Procurement Act.