MANILA — Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia said Friday it was premature to hinder Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for automated counting machines in the 2025 midterm elections.
Garcia said this in light of the United States government allegedly suing former Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista for receiving bribe money from an elections technology company.
ABS-CBN News is still trying to verify this report.
Smartmatic has been the provider of machines since the Philippines shifted to automated elections in 2010.
Earlier this week, Garcia said Smartmatic is one of the companies they expect to participate in the bidding of 110,000 machines needed in 2025.
“At this point, the presumption of innocence stands,” Garcia said. “We would closely monitor this development most especially the nature and weight of evidence to be presented in court."
"As to our procurement of new machines for the 2025 elections, the right thing to do is to make it transparent, inclusive and fair. That is, that everybody is afforded a level- playing field thereby ensuring equal chance and opportunity to all. Nothing should be hidden to public scrutiny with only the best interest of the people in mind,” he added.
Bautista said he had "never been contacted by the US Department of Homeland Security" for comment about the alleged complaint filed against him.
"But let me be very clear. I did not ask for nor receive any bribe money from Smartmatic or any other entity," Bautista said on X. "Be that as it may, I am ready to respond to the alleged charges at the proper forum and time."
Smartmatic, which has been in the Philippines since 2008, said it had "adhered to the Philippine Procurement Law and the strict controls that the Philippine Commission on Elections imposes" in every bidding process and procurement procedure.
Winning a bid in the Philippines "is never solely one individual's preference or decision," it also pointed out.
"Dozens of technical, commercial and administrative officials have a say in selecting the provider. Over the years Smartmatic has both won and lost bids In the Philippines," it added.
Smartmatic spokesperson Christian Lim, who is also the former Comelec commissioner in charge of the 2016 elections Steering Committee, said he does not know about Bautista’s possible dealings with providers.
“During steering committee meetings, Chairman Bautista did not participate much. So I would not have any idea on how he dealt with suppliers,” Lim said in a text message.
— Report from Victoria Tulad, ABS-CBN News