AFTER the disqualification of Smartmatic Philippines Inc., the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now being urged to shun foreign companies from participating in the conduct of electoral exercises in the country.
In an interview, the petitioners against Smartmatic urged the Comelec to go for local IT companies when it holds the public bidding for the Full Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count (FASTrAC) project for the 2025 national and local polls.
"We applaud the Comelec's decision of perpetual disqualification of Smartmatic. But it is still not enough," said former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary Eliseo Rio.
"What we are pushing for is, for the election to really be cleansed, the terms of reference should not be limited to foreign companies. (Right now) Filipino companies are unable to join," he added.
Rio said this is because, based on the country's experience with Smartmatic, automated election systems (AES) provided by foreign firms lack transparency.
"With Smartmatic, there was really no sense of transparency in our elections," said Rio.
Last Wednesday, November 29, 2023, the Comelec en banc ruled to disqualify and disallow Smartmatic from "any public bidding process for elections."
In response to Rio, the Comelec said the Terms of Reference (TOR) provides that the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) will hold an open competitive bidding.
According to Comelec Chairman George Garcia, the poll body cannot go against the TOR and provisions of the Government Procurement Act.
"Anybody can participate so long as they can comply with our Terms of Reference, whatever is contained in the TOR," he said.
"It is clear who are allowed and who are not during the bidding, unless the Comelec is restrained by the Supreme Court," added the official.
Instead of egging the Comelec to alter the bidding requirements, the poll chief advised Rio and company to just push for the disqualification of such companies before the SBAC.
"Once we know who the participants are, they can file an opposition. That is open to anyone," said Garcia.
To note, the scheduled submission, receipt, and opening of bids for the FASTrAC project is set on December 12, 2023. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)