THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has unanimously denied the request for a refund, amounting to close to P20 million, of Smartmatic International in connection with the services it rendered in the 2013 midterm polls.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the commission en banc rejected the appeal of the Venezuela-based firm to return the amount totaling to P19,045,068.24.

"Last Tuesday, the En Banc denied the request of Smartmatic to refund around P20 million in penalties that was deducted from their receivables in 2013," she said.

The Commissioner added, "That penalty is pursuant to a contract. And this was the 2013 contract. Comelec's book for 2013 is already closed three years ago. Why ask for refund now?"

She believes that the Commission on Audit (COA) will not allow such action and will eventually ask Smartmatic to return it.

“The books of 2013 have long been closed. No refund can be given. Otherwise, the COA will disallow that and require them to pay back,” Guanzon explained.

She is also wondering why it is only now, three years after, that the multi-national company is asking for the refund.

"Why Smartmatic asked for a refund this year is mysterious. Nakakapagtaka. That was a 2013 transaction," Guanzon said.

According to the copy of Smartmatic's request for refund, a total of P24,446,714.88 was deducted from their 2013 contract.

The penalty was due to their failure to deliver eight of the 30 enhancements of the old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines as agreed upon during their Option to Purchase contract signed in 2012.

Smartmatic is hoping the Comelec would consider lowering the penalty to only P5,401,646.64 since the 2013 elections was "successfully conducted" and that "no damage caused" despite the none delivery of the enhancements.

"Taking into account all of the foregoing, we respectfully request that the deduction be reduced," said the poll body's service provider also in the 2010 and 2016 elections. (FP/Sunnex)