SC rules: Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion for disqualifying Smartmatic

SC rules: Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion for disqualifying Smartmatic
SunStar File

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has committed grave abuse of discretion when it ordered the disqualification of Smartmatic-TIM Corporation and Smartmatic Philippines Inc. from joining the bidding for the automated election system (AES) for the upcoming 2025 midterm elections, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled.

The SC En Banc unanimously approved on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, the granting of Petition for Certiorari filed by the said firm that seeks to reverse the Comelec resolution issued in November 29, 2023 preventing them from participating in any public bidding for elections.

The SC En Banc said the poll body gravely abused its discretion when it disqualified Smartmatic even before the firm submitted any bid, without any reference to the eligibility requirements prescribed by its Bids and Awards Committee.

It said the Comelec implemented a discretionary pre-qualification regime antithetical to the Government Procurement and Reform Act.

However, the SC said ruling shows no sufficient basis to nullify the public bidding and the P17.9-billion contract that the Comelec signed last month with South Korea’s Miru Systems Co. Ltd. for the provision of vote-counting machines for the upcoming elections, noting considerations of equity, justice, practicality, and the doctrine of operative fact.

“However, the Court recognized that to require the Comelec to conduct another round of public bidding would seriously disrupt its preparations for the 2025 National and Local Elections (NLE) and potentially jeopardize the very conduct of the NLE. Accordingly, the Court ruled that its Decision will be prospective in application,” the SC said in a statement.

In a press conference, SC spokesperson lawyer Camille Ting said Smartmatic may now participate in the bidding for AES for the next election.

The Comelec issued the resolution in November 2023 due to allegations of bribery against former Comelec chairperson Andy Bautista, who allegedly accepted grease money in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp.

In an interview with reporters, Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco said they respect the decision of the high court and is ready whatever result it may bring. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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