THER youth groups are right. Smartmatic’s new Automated Election System machines should be called “Oh-Em-Mar.”
This Venezuelan marketing company, which now turns out to be a British company after all, will use Optical Mark Reader machines this time. But basically they will still be the PCOS machines that were used in the 2010 and 2013 elections, machines that did not given any transparency or paper trail to make the results from each precinct reliable, credible and verifiable.
Here is the story told by Kabataan Partylist Congressman Terry L. Ridon.
The new optical mark readers (OMR) machines that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will lease for the 2016 elections might as well be called ‘Oh-Em-Mar,’ youth groups said Friday as they aired fears that the Aquino administration will manipulate the result of next year’s automated polls to favor Liberal Party stalwart Mar Roxas.
Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist trooped to the COMELEC Main Office in Intramuros on Friday morning to protest against the new lease deal brokered by the poll body with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp., which involves the lease of 93,977 new OMR machines for the upcoming national elections.
The protesters brought along a mock ‘Oh-Em-Mar’ machine that churns out ballots with only Roxas’ name on it.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that the recent moves involving the lease of OMR machines might be part of the preparations for the commission of “massive electoral fraud” in the upcoming elections.
“There is a bigger power meddling with the dealings of Comelec with Smartmatic, a strong force that is planning to tap Smartmatic’s virtual monopoly over the elections to commit massive electoral fraud,” Ridon said.
“It won’t be surprising if that unknown force emanates from the upper echelons of the Aquino administration, given that they seek to win the presidential polls by hook or by crook. The ‘Oh-Em-Mar’ machines will ensure that they win the polls,” the lawmaker added.
Ridon earlier filed House Resolution 2308, which calls on the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to review the new lease deal.
In HR 2308, Ridon spelled out the irregularities and possible violation of election and audit rules committed by COMELEC in pursuing the lease deal:
* The new lease deal is actually more costly despite COMELEC’s earlier pronouncement that cost is one of its main considerations. The new deal is worth P8 billion as opposed to the refurbishment option worth only P3.13 billion.
*The lease deal may be in violation of RA 9369, particularly Section 10, which states that “…the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.” The new OMRs that Smartmatic will supply to COMELEC are completely new and may not be compliant with the requirements of the law.
*There might not be enough time to conduct an independent audit of the machines and source codes of the new machines for credibility, transparency and reliability so as to avoid issues of fraud faced in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
*The lease deal may also prove to be in violation of the Government Procurement Act because there is no legal basis for conducting two parallel bidding processes (COMELEC has conducted the bidding for the refurbishment contract alongside the bidding for the lease deal). Such move has already been questioned before the Supreme Court by election watchdogs led by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG).
“With Smartmatic again in place, there is no stopping unscrupulous officials from again orchestrating massive electoral fraud. This is why Filipinos should exercise heightened vigilance in the months leading to the elections, and particularly guard against any form of ‘yellow magic,’” Ridon said.