MANILA, Philippines - The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) on Thursday urged foreign officials and employees of Smartmatic involved in the election automation project to send their passports to a Catholic bishop.
"We are calling in your bluff. Give us all your passports," CCM co-convenor lawyer Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque said his group will turn over the passports to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz for safekeeping. He said Smartmatic Southeast Asia president Cesar Flores and other Smartmatic officials can send their passports to Cruz's office at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines compound at 470 Gen. Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila.
"The Venezuelans behind Smartmatic, like us Filipinos, are predominantly Catholics. Surely, they can trust Archbishop Cruz to return their passports should there be no reason later to ensure their stay in the country," CCM co-convenor Betina Legarda said.
Flores on Wednesday said he and other Smartmatic officials are willing to surrender their passports as an assurance that they will not flee the country amid massive glitches in the election automation process.
"If you want my passport, you can hold it in escrow," Flores said during a press conference at the Commission on Elections' main office in Manila.
Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal assured that the automated elections will push through on May 10. At least 76,000 flashcards were recalled by Comelec after PCOS machines failed to read votes for local candidates during Monday's supposed final testing.
Flores has assured that Smartmatic-TIM will finish configuring flash cards for all PCOS machines by Friday morning. He said Smartmatic-TIM may also recycle some of the recalled flash cards if the shipments do not arrive on time.
Comelec officials, meanwhile, said if the configuration is not finished by May 10, the poll body can hold special elections in affected areas.