No foreign citizens or groups are allowed to engage in the business of education, the media, transportation, retail trade, and a host of others.
So jealous are we of our patrimony that we reserve all these endeavors for the enjoyment of the Filipino people alone. Not, it seems, in the most important aspect of our life: the election of our leaders both at the local and national levels.
That is one beef, among others, cited by Kontra Daya in the complaint it has filed before the Ombudsman against former Chair Jose Milo of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the four former commissioners for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
According to the charge sheet, the poll body and Smartmatic-TIM Corporation “conspired to develop and put in place an automated electoral system under the full control and supervision of a foreign entity,” which is a clear violation of the Constitution.
Moreover, Comelec awarded the multi-billion contract for the automation of the May 7, 2010 elections and the May 13, 2013 elections to Smartmatic-TIM Corporation without any bidding at all.
It takes gumption that borders on arrogance to award a contract without bidding, especially one involving billions of pesos, and to a foreign corporation too.
A transnational with offices in the US, Great Britain, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Taiwan, Smartmatic-TIM is foreign owned.
Others would recoil at the prospect of a graft case. Not Mr. Milo and his commissioners. Maybe they had been emboldened by the fact that they were immune from suits. Or maybe they thought the people would forget their villainy by the time they were out office.
If so, they did not count on the long memory of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Father Joe Dizon, and Rodolfo Jun Lozada, people who comprise Automated Election System (AES) Watch, another election watchdog.
AES Watch and Kontra Daya name as respondents a number of people from Smartmatic-TIM as well, specifically Cesar Flores, president; and Julian Villa Jr. and Armando Yanes, chairman and chief financial officer, respectively.
The contract, apart from the Constitutional prohibition, is excessively overpriced, with Smartmatic-TIM billing the Comelec a whooping P12.5 billion for the May 7, 2010 and the May 13, 2013 elections. The amount does not include the cost of the printing of the ballots and the paper used, the indelible ink, transportation, etc.
Then again there were the honoraria paid to thousands of schoolteachers for their services on the day of the elections.
No people on Planet Earth are robbed more by their leaders than we Filipinos, so we can learn to live with what is clearly another theft of the people’s money, tremendous as the amount may be.
The thought, however, that we have to endure the leadership of people we haven’t elected is another matter. And yet we’re stuck with them, all because Comelec has rammed this contract down our collective throat.
Apparently, Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. and his commissioners, like their predecessors, felt they were above and beyond the law. And being members of a Constitutional body, that’s true but only for now.
Kontra Daya is unimpressed. It is now preparing a supplemental motion asking the Ombudsman to investigate them as well preparatory to an impeachment complaint the group plans to file before the House of Representatives. After all, it is they who extended the contract to cover the May 13, 2013 elections.
If the Ombudsman throws out the petition and if Congress refuses to impeach Mr. Brillantes and his commissioners, if and when there is finding of probable cause, Kontra Daya—or another group imbued with the same patriotic fervor—would simply wait out their terms of office, then file the appropriate complaint later.
Either way they will answer for their crime against the people.
In awarding the contract, Comelec violated its own Terms of Reference, which is to say the poll body adopted rules, perhaps to reassure people and silence its critics, then methodically violated or simply ignored that rule.
The Comelec gave Smartmatic-TIM a complete run of the electoral process.
Smartmatic-TIM has supplied the 18,500 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, the 164,400 CF (compact flash) cards, the SIM cards, the transmission modems and antennas. It also hired the technicians who took care of all the computer hardware and software and the call center agents who answered the questions about the conduct of the elections.
It is thus understandable why people—and Kontra Daya and AES Watch are only hearkening to the clamor—are greatly disturbed by the delay in data transmission.
Still, the price is not the biggest concern here. The data the PCOS machines failed to transmit on time accounted for up to 11 million votes. If only a fraction of those votes had been altered in the interregnum, many candidates subsequently proclaimed by the Comelec as winners at the local and national levels may not be those whom the people had really voted for.
Mr. Brillantes told us that the delay was caused by the transmission system being gummed up on the day of the elections. But the two telecommunications giants, Smart and Globe, issued statement affirming their respective transmission systems were just fine. And the people tend to believe them, having encountered no problems when they made their texts or calls that day.
Has there really been a conspiracy, as the two election watchdogs claim, to subvert the electoral process? It is a question that is keeping some people up all night—at least people interested in preserving the sanctity of the ballot.