An overwhelming majority of Supreme Court (SC) justices are set to declare void a P300-million “midnight deal” entered into by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic-TIM).
In its final en banc session in Baguio City on April 21, according to unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times, 12 to 14 of the 15 SC justices will rule that the Comelec-Smartmatic deal is illlegal.
Only Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco has manifested during the April 14 en banc session his intention to write a separate opinion against the ponencia of Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
A source said the voting could even be unanimous if Velasco and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had a change of heart and vote against the contract.
The 50-page draft ponencia of Bernabe has recommended to declare “null and void” the Comelec-Smartmatic deal.
Another source said the majority of the SC justices favor adopting the draft ponencia of Bernabe because the “midnight deal” was a clear violation of Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act when the Comelec negotiated the same with Smartmatic without the benefit of public bidding.
The contract was considered as a “midnight deal” as it was signed on January 30, 2015, three days before the retirement of then-Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. last February 2, 2015.
It involved an extended warranty for poll machines, which were used in the 2013 polls, to be tapped again for the 2016 elections.
Still another source said the SC is not threatened with pronouncements of the Comelec that it would go back to manual voting if the Smartmatic contract was declared void.
“So what if we go to manual voting? It is better to void the contract with Smartmatic rather than for the court to allow an illegal contract. Ang linaw linaw ng kaso [The case is very clear]. [There was no] public bidding,” the source noted.
During the March 23 en banc deliberations of the High Court, Sereno was very vocal and categorical in not allowing the Comelec-Smartmatic contract to be stopped.
Only the Chief Justice and Velasco are against a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued against the Comelec and Smartmatic over the extended warranty for the poll machines, with repair and refurbishment of the machines thrown in.
Apart from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, AES Watch had also filed a petition seeking to scrap the “midnight deal.”
The petitioners from AES Watch were composed of Bishop Broderick Pabillo; former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman; Dr. Pablo Manalastas, a computer science faculty of Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines; Leo Querubin of Philippine Computer Society; Concepcion Bragas-Regalado, founding president of Migrante International; Dr. Jaime Caro of the UP Department of Computer Science; Marikol Akol, co-organizer of TransparentElections.org.ph; and Evita Jimenez, executive director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg).