By Leslie Ann Aquino
The head of the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) believes the Commission on Elections should drop Smartmatic and look for a new technology provider for the May 2019 polls.
NAMFREL chairman Gus Lagman said Smartmatic’s vote counting machines lack “transparency.”
“Smartmatic’s VCM is not transparent, as required by law,” he said.
“There is even suspicion that the machines were used in past elections to cheat. That’s the problem when a system is not transparent,” Lagman added.
The Namfrel official said this in reaction to the report that the House minority bloc will move for the rejection of the 2019 budget of the poll body if it would not replace Smartmatic as its voting counting machines provider citing the alleged “lapses” and “irregularities” committed by the technology provider in the past.
Lagman suggested that the poll body include the “hybrid” voting system in its options.
Under the said system, voting and counting will be done manually in polling precincts, while the transmission and canvassing of election results will be done electronically.
“The commissioners, for once, should listen to IT professionals, and not just IT suppliers, especially foreign ones,” Lagman said.
In December, the Comelec en banc decided to exercise the option-to-purchase clause in their lease contract with Smartmatic for the 97,517 VCMs for P2.1 billion for them to be reused in the May 2019 polls.
Before the 2013 polls, the poll body also exercised its option-to-purchase clause and acquired all 81,896 units of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines, which were leased for the 2010 elections, for P1.8 billion.
Instead of reusing the PCOS machines in the 2016 polls, the Comelec opted to lease 90,000 plus VCMs from Smartmatic due to lack of time to refurbish the former.