The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reiterated its stance on Thursday, standing firm on its decision to disqualify Smartmatic.
“It was a very difficult decision but nonetheless, it was the right decision. And we will stand firm on what the Comelec en banc decided,” Comelec chairman George Garcia said.
“As far as the Comelec en banc is concerned, all other, all procurements hereon, they are disallowed or they are disqualified. So meaning to say that decision may change depending on the composition of the en banc. Or that may change depending on the circumstances,” he added.
The vote to disqualify Smartmatic was 5-1-1, with five commissioners, including Commissioner Garcia, in favor of the disqualification due to its alleged involvement in the bribery case against former Comelec chair Juan Andres Bautista.
Commissioner Aimee Ferolino provided a separate concurring and dissenting opinion, while Commissioner Marlon Casquejo did not vote due to official business.
Ferolino acknowledged the plenary authority of the poll body and voted to dismiss the petition filed by the group of former DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., which sought Smartmatic’s disqualification over alleged irregularities in the 2022 elections.
Comelec disqualifies Smartmatic
Ferolino raised questions about the use of the United States government’s case against Juan Andres Bautista in the context of Smartmatic’s disqualification.
She noted that this issue was never properly raised and expressed concerns about its relevance. Bautista was accused of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp. during the 2016 elections.
Commissioner Rowena Guanzon expressed respect for Commissioner Aimee Ferolino’s position. Still, she pointed out that the accusation against Smartmatic and Juan Andres Bautista was mentioned in one of the documents filed before the poll body, and Smartmatic did not counter it.
“Hindi yun lihim, yung issues discussed,” Garcia said. “Nandiyan ang issue na ‘yun bakit hindi nila mismo kinounter eh part ‘yun ng kabuuan ng disqualification eh bakit hindi nila kinounter?”
Garcia reiterated that Smartmatic’s argument regarding not being indicted yet does not preclude the Comelec from exercising its administrative power and making decisions even without a formal case.