SC gives Comelec, Rio 10 days to answer Smartmatic’s petition

SC gives Comelec, Rio 10 days to answer Smartmatic’s petition

By Jomel R. Paguian

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) En Banc on Monday to file its comments on the Petition for Certiorari filed against them by Smartmatic TIM Corporation and Smartmatic Philippines, Inc.

The petition assailed the Comelec En Banc’s Nov. 29 Resolution which disqualified voting technology provider, Smartmatic, from participating in the bidding process for the automated election system for the 2025 national and local elections and in any election-related public bidding process.

Aside from Comelec, former information and communications technology chief Eliseo M. Rio, Jr., whose group filed a petition to ban Smartmatic was also ordered to submit their comments before the High Court within a non-extendible period of 10 days from notice. Augusto C. Lagman, Franklin F. Ysaac, and Leonardo O. Odoño were named together with Mr. Rio.

“The abovenamed respondents shall personally file with this Court and personally serve on the adverse parties their respective comments,” read part of the resolution.

Asked to comment on the development, Comelec Chairman George M. Garcia underscored that the SC has not issue an injunction on the poll body’s decision barring Smartmatic from its bidding process.

“The High Court found no compelling reasons to issue an injunctive writ to stall the implementation of our questioned resolution,” Mr. Garcia told reporters through Viber.

“Towards our consistent commitment to the directives of Supreme Court, the Commission on Elections shall fully comply with this Order with the assistance of the Office of the Solicitor General,” added Comelec spokesperson John Rex C. Laudiangco.

In a previous email, Smartmatic declined to comment on the ongoing case. “With due respect to the law and all parties involved, we cannot comment on pending legal cases,” it said.

Likewise, Mr. Rio refused to give any comment, citing sub judice rule.

A day after the release of the En Banc resolution, Mr. Garcia said Smartmatic’s petition before the Supreme Court is expected “at any moment.”

On the same day, Smartmatic said it was not given the opportunity to provide comments or respond to the grounds used by the commission ban the firm. “We are very confident that had Comelec informed us of the matter, allowed us to explain our side and present countervailing evidence, the unfair disqualification would not have been meted out.”

In its Nov. 29 ruling, the Comelec En Banc said that it is compelled to disallow Smartmatic from participating in the procurement process for automated elections forthwith, citing allegations related to bribery and a compromised procurement process in the 2016 national and local elections.

Comelec mentioned in their resolution the allegations revolving around former Comelec Chairman Juan Andres D. Bautista who allegedly received bribes in exchange for awarding a contract for Smartmatic during the 2016 elections.