Comelec must decide, act swiftly on poll tech change: ex-commissioner

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2019 10:02 AM | Updated as of Jun 03 2019 10:30 AM

MANILA- The Commission on Elections should start looking for a new technology provider for the 2022 polls this year if it decides to heed President Rodrigo Duterte's call to replace Smartmatic, a former commissioner said Monday.

Selecting a new technology provider should be done until August and all agreements should be finalized by the poll body by the end of the year in time for the 2022 presidential elections, former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said.

"There is a clamor from some candidates, sectors of society to look at the technology provider. I think if they're going to change the technology provider they have to do it within this year. If they do it next year it will be too late already again," he told ANC's Early Edition.

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Duterte last week asked the poll body to look for a new technology provider for the elections, saying the use of Smartmatic was “creating an environment of hostile attitude.”

"Dispose of that Smartmatic and look for a new one that is free of fraud," Duterte said in a speech before the Filipino community in Japan.

The vote counting machines provided by Smartmatic were the same ones used in the 2016 elections, the year Duterte won the presidency.

Comelec has since purchased the machines from Smartmatic and is now in charge of its maintenance.

The machines were used again for the May 13 midterms where the poll body faced criticism after hundreds of the machines encountered glitches and the transmission real-time elections results were delayed for 7 hours due to technical difficulty.

"You can't have the same problems in the last elections in 2022. They (Comelec) have to prevent that, they have to make sure that that doesn't happen again," Larrazabal said.

NOT A GUARANTEE

Changing the poll technology provider is also not a guarantee that there will be no problems in the next elections since "management issues" may persist, Larrazabal said.

"Automated election is not a silver bullet, it's just one of the tools available to fix the ills of an election. More than the system, I would look at the procedure," he said.

"You look at the procedures rather than just the system or the software," he said.

Larrazabal said glitches encountered during the midterm polls were not entirely Smartmatic's fault since the machines were under the care of the Comelec.

"You don't just look at the technology, you also look at the procedure...When you look at a problem, you don't lump up or blame one person, you dissect it," he said.

Comelec said that it could simply exclude Smartmatic from public biddings for future poll-related activities as this would require legal basis.

“Kakailanganin natin ng legal bases to ban any supplier,” poll body spokesperson James Jimenez said, explaining that Comelec also has no power to limit the bidding to local suppliers.

(We need legal bases to ban any supplier.)