Guanzon to Smartmatic: Stay away from Comelec commissioners

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Tuesday reminded Smartmatic officials and employees to "stay away" from the poll body's commissioners pending the investigation on the breach of protocol that happened to the transparency server on May 9.

This, after an "encounter" with Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia inside the dining room for members of the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Tuesday morning.

"I'm surprised kasi pagala-gala pa yan sa commissioners hallway and dining room. Kasi ang akala ko, sinabi ko na noong day na nag-order kami ng investigation to tell Smartmatic people to please huwag silang pumunta sa hallway ng mga commissioners at hindi naman sila invited sa dining room na yun," Guanzon said.

"So nagulat lang ako kanina, may kausap ako doon, mga abogado ko, biglang pumasok si Marlon Garcia. Sabi ko sa kanya, 'What are you doing here? You stay away from me. You're under investigation.' Baka na-shock lang siya, kumuha siya ng baso, he meant to say na kukuha siya ng baso. Kung kailangan nila ng tubig, why did he leave the meeting room just to get water to the dining room?"

"They should not...contact with commissioners because we are going to decide their... Kami ang huhusga sa kanila. Dapat po ay hindi sila nagpapakita sa amin at ang mga abogado nila, alam nila yun," she added.

The poll body has already formed a committee to investigate the incident. Director Norina Casingal of the Law Department is the head of the investigating team.

Guanzon said she has assigned one of her lawyers to observe the proceedings and has submitted questions for the investigation.

"Sabi ng mga tao, hmph wala yan, imbestiga-imbestiga!" Guanzon said. "But you watch us. Serious kaya ako diyan!"

On Monday, Guanzon wrote a letter to the Comelec en banc to direct Smartmatic to prohibit its officials and employees from leaving the country until the investigation is finished.

BLACKLIST

Guanzon said she is studying the possibility of having Smartmatic blacklisted from participating in future Philippine elections, saying the technology provider breached protocol when it introduced changes to the script of the transparency server on election night without the permission of the Comelec en banc.

READ: Guanzon: Smartmatic breached protocol

She said that should Smartmatic be held liable for the breach, the company would be required to pay penalties as stipulated in the contract. The poll body could also withhold the company's performance bond as a result.

Garcia earlier maintained that he had authorization from the Comelec before he was able to change the script of the server. He noted that an employee from Comelec typed one of two passwords required by the system for him to access the codes.

Smartmatic spokesperson Karen Jimeno said the company is open to investigation but it is important that the set protocols also be established to determine whether there was a breach committed in the first place.

"Before anyone alleges that there's a breach in protocol, I think what's important here is first, to look at whether there is a protocol for a minor change like a correction of a typographical error, and what the protocol is? Where is it contained? And to determine if there is a breach and what the penalties are," Jimeno said.

Jimeno added that it is also unnecessary that Smartmatic officials and employees be barred from leaving the country pending the investigation.

"Smartmatic respects the memorandum of Commissioner Rowena Guanzon. But they also think it's unnecessary because wala namang balak umalis yung mga officials ng Smartmatic. They intend to fully cooperate with whatever investigation Comelec calls for or any political party calls for. So they have no intention of leaving the country as well. So they have no intention of leaving country as well," she said.

But Guanzon said: "Kapag hindi mo naman sila sabihan na hindi sila dapat umalis kasi iimbestigahan sila, baka isipin nila na hindi kami seryoso."

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