After Supreme Court defeat, Comelec says Smartmatic ban ‘difficult but necessary’

Dwight de Leon

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After Supreme Court defeat, Comelec says Smartmatic ban ‘difficult but necessary’

Commission on Elections Chairman George Garcia during a press conference on the status of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, at the Comelec Command Center in Manila on October 30, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The Comelec says it plans to appeal the Supreme Court decision that flagged its disqualification of Smartmatic in the bidding for election contracts

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is planning to appeal the Supreme Court ruling that it had abused its powers when it disqualified longtime poll tech provider Smartmatic from future elections.

The Comelec said in a statement on Thursday, April 18, that it has not yet decided on the next legal courses of action to take as it has not yet received the official notice and copy of the SC decision, “save for an effort to seek clarification on matters impacting our ongoing Pre-Election Preparatory Activities which, at present and true to our timelines, are in full swing.”

“Nevertheless, Chairman Garcia has mentioned that the en banc is considering filing a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of the Court,” the poll body said.

The Comelec maintained that the en banc’s decision to ban Smartmatic from future elections was “difficult but necessary.”

“The Commission en banc’s decision was indeed groundbreaking, hard, and difficult but necessary to address the issues brought up by numerous stakeholders regarding transparency, reliability, and integrity of the election procurement involving the subject of an earlier election,” the Comelec said.

The Comelec, in November last year, barred Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for contracts in the 2025 midterm elections, after allegations of its involvement in a 2016 bribery scheme with former poll chairman Andres Bautista came to light.

The commission insisted that the allegations posed an “imminent threat to the strength and integrity” of the Philippines’ democratic processes.

Smartmatic has constantly denied wrongdoing, and even tried to submit bidding proposals for the procurement projects involving voting machines and transmission technology, but was turned down by the Comelec.

The company ran to the Supreme Court, which on Wednesday, April 17, said that the Comelec “implemented a discretionary pre-qualification regime antithetical” to the country’s procurement law when it disqualified Smartmatic.

Smartmatic said on Wednesday that the Supreme Court ruling was a “significant victory for fairness and the rule of law.”

Comelec Chairman George Garcia, in an ambush interview later Thursday, said he stands ready to face any impeachment complaint.

“What’s important is we did what’s best for the interest of the Filipino public,” he added.

Miru Systems

The Court ruling, however, does not nullify the contract awarded to Korean firm Miru Systems, the new voting machine provider in the Philippines for 2025.

For Comelec, this meant that the Supreme Court recognizes the Comelec’s awarding of the contract to Miru as valid.

“The Comelec is extremely grateful to the Highest Court of the Land for having recognized our efforts to pursue election preparations true to the letter and spirit of governing procurement laws,” the poll body said in Thursday’s statement. “Our ongoing preparations for the 2025 national and local elections in accordance with our timelines will not be adversely affected by the decision.”

Also on Thursday, former lawmaker Edgar Erice filed a petition with the Supreme Court, urging it to nullify the Comelec resolution that awarded to multi-billion-peso contract to Miru Systems, citing its blemished reputation overseas.

“The Comelec will face and answer in the proper forum as the necessity arises,” it said. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.