FORMER Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Augusto Lagman has warned that bidding for the procurement of 23,000 automated election systems (AESs) that will be used in the 2016 polls could be rigged in favor of Smartmatic.
Lagman on Tuesday said “something is very fishy” with the insistence of the Comelec to include Smartmatic in the bidding. He added that it is also possible that Smartmatic may win a P1.2-billion negotiated contract for the refurbishment of the old Precinct Count Optical System (PCOS) machines that it had supplied the poll body.
“That [Smartmatic emerging as successful bidder] can happen. That can very well happen,” Lagman, also an official of AES Watch, said.
He insisted that Smartmatic should not be included in the bidding because it violated several election rules during previous biddings “but the Comelec has stubbornly refused to blacklist it.”
Lagman said among Smartmatic’s violations in its handling of previous elections were the absence of digital signatures on PCOS machines and the unusually high number of cases of failure of compact flash cards.
He also took note of the open ports that leave the machines susceptible to third party manipulation and its non-disclosure that it did not own the software used in the past elections.
Lagman and his group are among those calling on the Comelec to blacklist Smartmatic from participating in any manner in the conduct of the 2016 elections.
Recently, a group of IT experts and cause-oriented groups organized the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) to guard against “electronic manipulation” of elections, including the banning of Smartmatic from electoral exercises.
Engineer Hermenegildo Estrella of C3E said “there is a great possibility of a large-scale electronic manipulation of the 2016 elections if Smartmatic remains as the supplier of automated election systems.”
Several senators, meanwhile, expressed belief that an automated election process is still the best way to conduct the political exercise despite warnings raised by some groups about its susceptibility to electronic manipulations.
The senators were reacting to an appeal made by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) to Congress to enact a measure that will mandate the manual casting and counting of votes in the 2016 elections.
Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd said he prefers an automated election system, particularly the use of PCOS machines, over manual voting and counting.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara also does not see anything wrong with the use of PCOS machines based on results of the 2010 and 2013 automated elections although he pushed for additional safeguards to ensure the integrity of the process.
In a recent hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES), Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. admitted receiving election-related complaints during the 2013 mid-term elections but maintained that most of the problems encountered were caused by human intervention. He said it is difficult to prevent election-related problems because there are always those would try to cheat or sabotage the elections.