PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday told the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to junk Smartmatic, the provider of the vote counting machines (VCMs) for the Philippines’ automated elections.
“I would like to advise Comelec now, I won’t delay this: Dispose of that Smartmatic and look for a new one that is free of fraud,” Duterte said during his meeting with the Filipino community here.
“I will assure you, I will bring this matter before the nation. And I will tell them: “Stop it because you are creating a problem that will explode,” he added.
While the Comelec is an independent constitutional body, the President said he would tell the Comelec to look for another technology provider for the 2022 elections.
He said he was supposed to tell this during his fourth State of the Nation Address but said he’d rather not delay his statement.
“I was reserving that for the SONA. I will tell the Comelec, it’s an independent body. But I will really tell them, “Do not use that mechanism again,” he said.
Smartmatic’s vote counting machines encountered glitches during the May 13 midterm elections.
“The people don’t like Smartmatic and if you use that in the next elections, 3 years from now, I don’t know what will happen. Something has got to be improved on the system. Stop using Smartmatic because there’s been a lot of – I don’t want to attribute corruption,” Duterte said.
“Kindly, I am now asking you as a co-equal body, it’s just promoting turmoil, please do not use it,” he added.
He said Comelec has still three years to change its system before the next elections.
“You have three years, katatapos lang ng eleksyon. Palitan na ninyo because it is no longer acceptable to me to the congressmen or you… anything that promotes cheating, Why are you insisting on Smartmatic?” he said.
An advocate of manual elections, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza expressed support for disposing of Smartmatic due to alleged fraud.
According to Atienza, complaints of election fraud makes it imperative to change automatic election provider especially if the government will continue automation in the succeeding elections.
“We are in full support of President Duterte’s order for Comelec to ‘dispose’ of Smartmatic and ‘look for a new one that is free of fraud’. Once again, the President has shown that he has the sensitivity to answer the nation’s growing problem of successive elections that have been marred by questions of irregularity. No one has dared to fix it, except President Duterte,” Atienza said.
Underscoring that in a democracy, each vote must be safeguarded and counted, Atienza said that with the current electronic system of voting using the PCOS machines, the voters have no way of knowing whether their votes were indeed counted especially after the Comelec did away with several safety features.
“Instead of ensuring efficient and credible elections, the automated system has in fact made wholesale cheating even easier,” Atienza said.
With Jester P. Manalastas