All eyes on Comelec’s decision on Smartmatic’s participation in 2025 polls—SHARP EDGES by JAKE J. MADERAZO
Comelec chairman George Garcia announced that submission of bids for the Full /Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count (FASTrAC) project will be made within the week. And before that happens, he clarified,” We want to promulgate the decision before the submission of bidding documents of all looking to participate in the bid”.
This development is important because, the fate of the nation’s electoral technology provider Smartmatic hangs in the balance. Some experts say Comelec should have dismissed former NTC Commissioner Eliseo Rio’s protest earlier on. “Their claims, presented as facts, are reportedly lacking any evidence, citing the fact that they failed to demonstrate a single vote discrepancy, with results many times validated through various audits by Comelec’s own records, Random Manual Audits, and independent audits and recounts by watchdogs like LENTE and PPCRV. The core issue is that the petition initiated by Rio is not strong enough, nothing more than a collection of baseless conspiracy theories. And despite the apparent inclination of some commissioners to axe Smartmatic, the Comelec En Banc may possibly find themselves at an impasse.
Adding to the complexity is the fact that every action taken by Smartmatic in an election is meticulously ordered and sanctioned by Comelec. The commissioners will face a dilemma. If they acknowledge even the slightest contractual breach by Smartmatic, they will implicate their own office, the Comelec, which has officially endorsed each deliverable from Smartmatic as “delivered in full” and has already made payments.
In the absence of a credible and formal protest against Smartmatic, observers now say there is an apparent haste to push this resolution asap. And the urgency to make this decision just before the bidding process are being attributed to powerful financial and political interests. Financially, there is a preference for excluding Smartmatic from participation, and allowing other vendors to operate independently. But politically, there might be external pressure.
In the absence of a credible protest, talks abound saying some Comelec officers may aim to utilize a supposed US indictment against Smartmatic. However, the problem is that no such indictment exists. As the company recently stated, in its 23-year history, no Smartmatic entity has ever been indicted in the United States or any other country worldwide in relation to any election or contract. This information can be verified on the US Department of Justice website by simply searching for ‘Smartmatic.’
Also interesting is Chair Garcia’s previous role in the power play dating back to the 2016 elections when he was the lead counsel for the protest of then VP candidate Bongbong Marcos. This history may inevitably cloud his current impartiality in decision-making and attain a transparent and fair bidding process. Let us wait and see what will happen.
Congrats Mayor Joy Belmonte for her unparalleled social services to QCitizens
Listening through the state of the city address of Quezon city Mayor Joy Belmonte recently, I feel very thankful for being among her constituents. Her report encompasses total service to all residents, regardless of status. Her administration covered everything from “womb to tomb”, so to speak.
She has automated all business transactions in City Hall and effectively erased corruption, which for years have hounded businessmen and workers. Business permits, occupational permits, building permits, certificates of occupancy, real estate tax assessments and payments are now available online and approved rightaway or in complex situations, not more than 3 three days.
With the highest city budget of P35-B, allotment of social services reached P13.4B, P5.3B for Education and P3.4B for infrastructure. Also, the Commission on Audit (COA) gave the city a clean audit or unqualified opinion for the third consecutive year. The numbers of beneficiaries are staggering. Government help for student scholars, market vendors, and all others are distributed via Maya accounts. All medical beneficiaries will be accessible thru a data center that they can use in all LGU clinics within QC or elsewhere. Today, there are 88,107 residents given financial 54,000 seniors and 38,000 non-seniors receiving free maintenance medicines. About 12,975 PWD, Seniors and solo parents are given financial aid of P1,500 quarterly or a total of P6,000 per year.
About 90,000 QCitizens availed of the city’s Pangkabuhayan project and are now business owners where they are mentored in planning and selling their produce in numerous bazaars or tiangges. A budget of P969M was allotted and results indicate that 82 percent of beneficiaries are doing well in their respective businesses. Startups are also provided P1-M seed fund to encourage entrepreneurship. If you are jobless, seeking employment, the city will give you a support fund of P500 pesos per week or a maximum of P4,000 pesos in two weeks. In grief, the city implemented free burial and free cremation. She has the real “localized housing project” with thousands of lot awards to former informal settlers and high-rise buildings for tricycle drivers, teachers, and city employees. In a nutshell, all services to Quezon city hall are available by calling 122 on landlines or mobile phones.
The international, national, and private sector awards on Mayor Joy Belmont’s exemplary leadership are almost non-stop just for this year. The city was 2023 champion of the Earth United Nations Environment Programme, Three straight unqualified opinion from COA, Three straight Seal of Good Local Governance Awards, Galing Pook /Awardee: IRISE UP, Four-time Most Competitive City Recognition, Urban Governance Exemplar Award, and Most Business-Friendly City and Maverick of the year Mayor Joy Belmonte -Esquire PH.
Quezon city was also named 2023 Resilience Champion, Special award for Digital Innovation, National Outstanding Mayor, Child Friendly Local governance Audit Recognition, Anti-Drug abuse Council Performance Audit, Asia Pacific Broadcasting awards, ARISE Award, Special Award-No Woman Left Behind, , Best City Jail Nationwide, Top Public Servant for Public Health, Quilts awards for Local Investment, 2023 Pearl Awards, People’s Asia people of the year award, Tanglaw ng Bayan Award, and the last this year was the Presidential Lingkod Bayan awardee.
“I think it is clear to our people that we did not waste the trust that they gave us. We reciprocated it with exemplary service that is honest and reliable,” Mayor Joy Belmonte said. Congrats Mayor Joy and keep it up.
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