THE camp of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. deplored on Tuesday the attempt of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to blame the former lawmaker for the delay in the return of unused vote counting machines (VCMs) to Smartmatic.
Vic Rodriguez, spokesperson of Marcos, said it is not fair for the former senator to be blamed for the delayed return of the VCMs to Smartmatic because the Comelec should have anticipated the possible filing of a case in its contract with the VCM provider.
He added that the poll body 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 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,” Rodriguez said, adding that contracts entered into with foreign entities should contain provisions that would protect the Filipino people at all costs.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said delivery of some VCMs to Smartmatic was delayed because of the electoral protest filed by Marcos before the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
The delay may cost the government P2 billion because of the “options to purchase” provision in the contract that the Comelec signed with Smartmatic.
“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,” Rodriguez pointed out.
He added that the Comelec’s ineptitude will cost the Filipino people P2 billion as Smartmatic now moves to collect the amount based on the “options to purchase” provision in their contract since the VCMs are now considered “sold” because of the failure to return the machines.
Marcos’ spokesperson also expressed alarm over the confirmation of Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that the implementation of the “option to purchase” will be conducted in a closed-door meeting with Smartmatic.
Rodriguez also cited the poll body’s brazen disregard of the rules and order of the court when Bautista announced that they already made a “constructive delivery” or a paper delivery on November 29 of the machines used in the elections.
He was also quoted as saying that on December 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.
He said that it was not clear if the Comelec informed the Supreme Court about the return the OMRs.
“Such actions are a travesty of justice and a direct contempt to judicial processes. Bautista should practice what he recently preached, advocating respect for the PET process,” he added.
The Comelec recently stripped a “unused” VCMs upon the request of Smartmatic.
Many of the secure digital (SD) cards taken from the VCMs were found to contain data validating the position of the Marcos camp that those machines should not have been touched while the election protest is pending.