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Smartmatic barred from Philippines elections

MANILA, Philippines — After 15 years of providing the Commission on Elections automated voting machines, technology company Smartmatic was disqualified by the Comelec yesterday from participating in future elections in the Philippines.

Voting 6-1, the seven-member Comelec bench prohibited Smartmatic from taking part in all public biddings and procurements for elections.

According to Comelec Chairman George Garcia, the commission’s decision is immediately executory unless restrained by a court.

While there is no suspension and blacklisting proceedings against Smartmatic, the Comelec stressed the need to maintain the country’s electoral integrity.

“The commission en banc, in pursuing the instant course of action, recognizes its duty to uphold the integrity of our electoral process,” the poll body said.

“It cannot overlook the serious, unresolved allegations against Smartmatic related to previous elections,” the commission added.

The poll body clarified that the disqualification order had nothing to do with the 2022 presidential elections, but the alleged bribery scheme involving Smartmatic in 2016.

Although the allegations spanning three elections have not been proven, the Comelec said the gravity and potential damage to the public warrant pro-active measures to safeguard the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.

The Comelec declared that no irregularities marred the conduct of the 2022 presidential elections. However, the commission admitted that the issue against Smartmatic undermines democracy by eroding public trust and confidence in the electoral process.

Smartmatic has provided the Comelec vote counting machines and the technology since the Philippines shifted to automated elections in 2010.

John Rex Laudiangco, spokesman for the Comelec, pointed out that the decision to disqualify Smartmatic is not a question about the integrity of past elections during which Smartmatic supplied the technology.

“The decision is on the integrity of the procurement then and not, we repeat, not, the integrity of any automated elections conducted in the Philippines, particularly that of the 2022 polls,” Laudiangco said.

In the same ruling, the Comelec ordered if