BAGUIO CITY: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had a sudden change of heart. She will now vote and join the majority in Tuesday’s en banc meeting of the Supreme Court (SC) against the Commission on Elections (Comelec)-Smartmatic “midnight deal.”
According to a well-placed source of The Manila Times in the SC, Sereno had already circulated her separate concurring opinion with the 14 associate justices of the tribunal, manifesting her vote and intention to join the ponencia of Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
“She [Chief Justice] will now vote against Smartmatic,” the source said.
On March 23, Sereno voted against issuance of a temporary restraining order to halt the Smartmatic contract.
Arguments by the 51-page draft ponencia of Bernabe against the P300-million Comelec-Smartmatic contract are “air-tight.”
The source said 14 justices of the 15-strong SC would now vote for scrapping of the “midnight deal” or it could even be unanimous if Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco will not continue with his dissenting opinion against the Bernabe ponencia.
The draft ponencia of Bernabe opines that the Comelec-Smartmatic contract was a clear violation of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act when Comelec negotiated the same with Smartmatic without the benefit of public bidding.
The contract involves extended warranty for poll machines that were used in the 2013 elections, allowing the Comelec to reuse them in the 2016 elections.
It was tagged a “midnight deal” as it was signed on January 30, 2015, three days before the retirement of then-Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes on February 2, 2015.