Bishop Baylon, 22 others, urge Comelec to rescind Smartmatic contract

LEGAZPI CITY—Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi is among the 23 members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who expressed opposition to the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s resolution that granted an exclusive contract to Smartmatic for the repair and maintenance of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

Bishop Joel Baylon
Photo via Gov. Joey Salceda
In a letter sent to the Comelec, the bishops said: “We are disturbed that many contract have been awarded to the Venezuelan company, Smartmatic, since 2010 to automate Philippine national and local elections now amounting to billions of taxpayers’ money—despite undisputed findings by citizens’ election watchdogs, IT experts, and other concerned groups with regard to noncompliance by both the Comelec and Smartmatic of election and procurement laws that compromised the transparency, security, accuracy and trustworthiness of the automated election system.”

The CBCP was questioning Comelec Resolution No. 9922, which was issued on December 23, 2014.

In said resolution, the poll body voted 5-2 to approve Smartmatic’s Extended Warranty Proposal amounting to P300,000,000 through Direct Contracting.

The bishops urged Comelec to defer any decision regarding the contract until after the retirement of three outgoing officials of Comelec, including Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., on February 2.

The other signatories include Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Quezon City; Roberto Mallari of Nueva Ecija; Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Camilo Gregorio of Batanes; Jose Lazo of Antique; Jose Advincula of Capiz; Leopoldo Jaucian of Bangued; Angelito Lampon of Jolo; Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay, Bukidnon; Bernardino Cortez of Infanta, Quezon; Sofronio Bancud of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija; Emmanuel Trance of Catarman; Martin Jumoad of Basilan; Renato Mayugba of Laoag; Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian; Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao; Patricio Buzon of Kabankalan; Patrick Daniel Parcon of Talibon; Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog; Crispin Varquez of Borongan; and Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches, Quezon City.

“We call on Comelec to uphold the rule of law in the interest of democracy and God-given people’s sovereign rights of suffrage and good government. All the safeguards as found in the automated election law should be complied with,” the letter reads.

Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Commission Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that more bishops could have signed the letter if they had been able to circulate it for a longer period of time during the recent CBCP Plenary Assembly in Manila.

Meanwhile, Brillantes said today, January 27, that the P300-million contract has yet to be awarded to Smartmatic.—BICOLSTANDARD.COM

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