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Smartmatic in hot water over poll glitches

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By Genalyn Kabiling

Smartmatic could be held liable for breach of contract following the reported technical glitches that marred the recent midterm elections, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said if Smartmatic failed to meet its contract obligations such as the timely release of poll results, it could serve as legal basis to disqualify them as technology provider in the country’s automated polls.

“The legal basis: if you have not done efficiently what you’re supposed to do. That’s the legal basis,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.

“Like for instance, about the glitches, if the contract states to give for instance the results of the elections within a span of time, then you failed, there is a breach. You will have legal basis,” he said.

Panelo admitted that if he was the lawyer of the poll body, he would have called the attention of Smartmatic on the reported delay in the poll results.

“If the glitch will result in the delay, substantial delay in the results, if I were the lawyer, I would argue, ‘There’s a breach because you did not follow the contract. There should be no delay’,” he said.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had earlier said there must be legal basis before it can exclude Smartmatic from future public biddings for election-related activities. Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez noted that limiting the bidding to local suppliers might not be the best solution since they do not have required experience to undertake such initiative.

Smartmatic has provided the technology since the first automated elections in 2010.

In his visit to Japan last week, the President asked the poll body to drop Smartmatic as the country’s technology provider in the automated polls following allegations of poll irregularities.

Duterte was puzzled why the company continued to corner the contract despite complaints of inefficiency of its poll machines. He has urged Comelec to look for a new company “free of fraud.”

Panelo, in the news briefing, said in seeking replacement for Smartmatic, the President does not want the country’s next elections to be tainted by irregularities.

He said there have been allegations of fraud during the 2016 presidential elections where Duterte supposedly lost three million votes. The opposition has also complained about the vote count during the recent midterm elections, he said.

“The President’s position is very clear. There have been allegations of certain glitches that somehow affect the impression that this Smartmatic is competent to handle the (polls),” he said.

“So the point of the President is: If there are complaints, maybe it’s better to replace your service. Because he does not want that any election in the future would be tainted with a whiff of fraud or allegations that will produce the effect of people doubting the credibility of an election,” he said.

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