Poll body hands off on Smartmatic-NPO row
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) downplayed fears of a failure of elections over the possible rejection of ballots.
"Lahat naman may failure of election scenario. These are common complaints and the best solution is to be sober about it. It is best to allow the process to see through. If at any point the Comelec feels that security of the ballot is threatened, it will not hesitate,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said on Friday.
Jimenez also stressed that Smartmatic may not be held liable if the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines reject defective ballots on election day.
"It's a perfectly reasonable expectation, of course, because their machines are in place. We don't want it to be blamed on them. Everyone knows they did not make the paper if something goes wrong with paper, they established deniability already. The Comelec gave them that deniability by refusing to bundle (the contracts),” he said.
Jimenez also dismissed allegations that the Comelec does not know what it's doing.
"That’s what other people said about them (Smartmatic), it would be very early to assume na may pagkakamaling nagaganap. This is not yet critical in terms of timelines. We have time to handle properly without being spooked by allegations,” he said.
Comelec is staying out of the controversial award of the National Printing Office (NPO) of a P780 million contract for ballot printing to Holy Family Printing Cannon-Joint venture.
For now, it is standing by the contract and the NPO.
“For now, the best course of action is to let the process resolve itself, [but] ‘di sinasara ng Comelec sa posibilidad na makialam. Patuloy ang pag-evaluate natin sa sitwasyon,” Jimenez said.
Asked if the Comelec was leaving too much to chance, Jimenez said, "We don't think so. Too risky? Do we distrust NPO that much? If all we have are allegations of losing bidder, other processes have to take precedence over our intervention.”
Jimenez characterized the concerns of Smartmatic over the rejection of test ballots by the Smartmatic PCOS machines as a complaint of a losing bidder.
Smartmatic was declared ineligible by the NPO to bid for the contract.
Jimenez said the en banc will not review the award of the contract to NPO.
"First of all, that would partake the nature of control. The point the bidding process given to them is delegated authority. The NPO is presumably competent to do these. We made a decision to give it to them. Wala kaming pakialam diyan,” he said.
Jimenez pointed out that the NPO told them that the test ballots passed 100%.
Nevertheless, he stressed that the acceptability of the ballots to the PCOS machines should match the accuracy rating of the PCOS machines.
"The rate of rejection should be very low should be close to 100% acceptability but again this lies within province of NPO. We can set standards, it’s them that should be meeting expectation. We’re not critical in terms of ballot printing, ‘di pa na-finalize laman ng balota,” he said.