Comelec probes alleged meeting between Smartmatic, 2022 election bet’s camp – senator

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is investigating a claim that the owner of voting technology provider Smartmatic and a 2022 national election candidate’s camp supposedly met during that election period, Sen. Imee Marcos said Monday.

During the Senate’s deliberations on the proposed 2024 budget of the poll body, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel bared the allegation that the owner of the mother company of Smartmatic Philippines visited the country and met with “a camp of a candidate, an interested party.”

Senate President Migz Zubiri tried to elicit information about the identity of the supposed candidate, asking if the person was winning or losing, but Pimentel did not answer the question.

The minority lawmaker also asked if the Comelec has already conducted a motu proprio investigation into the matter.

“I believe that the report was also studied by the Comelec and they initiated an investigation. The results of which have not yet been issued,” answered Marcos, the Comelec’s budget sponsor.

“The Comelec is saying that there is a pending disqualification case against Smartmatic from bidding in any other Comelec exercise and they are keen to investigate the allegation during that period,” she also said.

In June, former Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio, former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman, Franklin Ysaac, and Leonardo Odoño filed a petition calling for a review of the qualifications of Smartmatic.

The group that filed a disqualification petition against Smatmatic cited the reported irregularities between the transmission logs and reception logs from the precinct level to Comelec’s transparency server during the 2022 elections.

Despite the pending resolution of the disqualification petition, Smartmatic took part in the pre-bid conference for the new automated election system for the 2025 midterm elections.

It is among the “four very serious bidders,” according to Comelec.

“Kung tayo kasi nakaupo sa Comelec, if our supplier who practically ran the election, in-admit Mr. (Senate) President (Zubiri), halos na-delegate sa Smartmatic ano, and the owner is meeting with interested parties, candidates' camps, medyo bawal dapat yon,” Pimentel said.

[Translation: If we are Comelec officials and if our supplier who practically ran the election — as they have admitted that they delegated functions to Smartmatic — and the owner is meeting with interested parties, candidates’ camps, I think that should be prohibited.]

The chamber’s minority leader also asked Comelec officials if they knew that Smartmatic owners visited the Philippines in 2022. But Marcos said the poll body has no information about it.

Even the identities of Smartmatic owners apparently were not known by Comelec. When asked about the name of the technology provider’s owner, Marcos said that “Cesar Flores” represents Smartmatic in the Philippines, according to the agency’s records.

“Ang laging pinapangalanan ‘yong [The person repeatedly named is] Cesar Flores but we are not aware of the corporate structure of the sister company and the overall organization,” she said.

Marcos said there should be investigation results before the end of December by a 12-person investigative panel constituted by Comelec chairperson George Garcia to “look into all these different allegations both in 2022 and in other elections.”