Smartmatic donates paper for voting receipts

Paterno Esmaquel II
Smartmatic donates paper for voting receipts

Alecs Ongcal

While the Comelec accepts this donation, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon asserts it 'is graft' to accept 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper from Smartmatic

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, April 14, accepted 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper from technology provider Smartmatic.

The thermal paper will be used for voting receipts, a last-minute requirement ordered by the Supreme Court (SC), in the May 9 elections. (READ: Why SC denied Comelec appeal vs vote receipts)

Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body voted 6-1 in favor of accepting the thermal paper from Smartmatic.

Smartmatic is the same company that provided 97,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs) for the May 9 polls.

Jimenez said Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon was the lone dissenter in the Comelec’s decision Thursday.

Guanzon pointed out that receiving a donation from Smartmatic, which is doing business with Comelec, “is graft under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” 

Guanzon said she has explained this in a memo to the Comelec en banc, or the commission sitting as a whole. Rappler is still trying to obtain a copy of this memo as of posting time.

The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act says it is among corrupt practices of public officers to be “directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract or transaction between the government and any other.”

Smartmatic: No vested interests

In a forum on Wednesday, April 13, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista explained that Smartmatic donated thermal paper “because they are afraid” that thermal paper “might not be delivered on time for the elections” if it comes from other companies.

Lawmakers earlier said they have also been worried that suppliers could not provide thermal paper by May 9.

At the same time, Smartmatic voters’ education head Karen Jimeno dispelled perceptions that Smartmatic is protecting vested interests by donating thermal paper. 

“In fact, here, the technical service provider will be incurring an expense in order to make that donation,” Jimeno said.

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal also said Smartmatic’s donation “will help Comelec.”

Smartmatic’s donation clears a major hurdle in the May 9 polls, the preparations for which have been derailed because of the SC ruling on voting receipts. 

Smartmatic, a Venezuelan company, also provided VCMs for the Philippines’ first and second automated elections in 2010 and 2013.

Critics have repeatedly urged the Comelec to blacklist Smartmatic from election deals because its machines reportedly remain vulnerable to cheating. The poll body has snubbed these calls as it vouched for the security of Smartmatic’s machines. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.