FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 27, 2017 - 12:00am
There was grumbling that the Kian case was being used to divert attention away from Bautista. I think it is more than connected. It is joined as cause and effect. The corruption of elections using Smartmatic-PCOS was a political maneuver coached from abroad to decide who wins and who loses in our elections. The result: a win for the drug financed candidates that became government officials.
Other countries saw through Smartmatic and rejected the automatic electoral system that was turned into a business. Other countries saw through it. That is the story of the partnership between Smartmatic and Comelec. Therefore not only is the Bautista and Kian cases connected, they are related as cause and effect.
A book entitled Elections as an instrument of political control (compiled and edited by Felipe Miranda and Temario Rivera) should be a required reading for all those who care to save our country. This excerpt was emailed to me by Rene Azurin. The chapter Chasing the Wind: Assessing Philippine Democracy (2016) – refers to Andy Bautista. I will excerpt from the excerpt to fit the space of my column to help in spreading the information on Smartmatic’s role in 2010 and 2013.
“When former Far Eastern University college of law dean Andres Bautista was appointed in May 2015 by President Aquino as the term-ended Brillantes’ replacement as Comelec chairman, many somewhat naïve observers hoped that the former academic might disentangle Comelec’s distinctly unholy alliance with its foreign supplier Smartmatic and restore some measure of openness and integrity into our defective and untransparent automated election system. That hope was initially nurtured when Bautista made the right noises, pledged “cleaner elections,” and launched a charm initiative to try and offset Brillantes’ arrogant and offensive manner.
“More astute observers, however, immediately understood that the appointment as Comelec chairman did not come without strings and that Bautista’s active pursuit of the position – having earlier failed to get his desired appointment to a seat on the Supreme Court – effectively meant that he had accepted those strings. Essentially, those strings meant that he would follow the directives of the ruling political cabal and that Smartmatic control of Philippine elections would remain firmly in place. As events that soon unfolded showed, that understanding would, sadly, get to be validated.
“After barely two months of pretending to listen to the suggestions of IT experts and critical observers of the 2010 and 2013 automated elections, and after pretending to consider two better – more secure and more transparent – systems that had been developed by local software engineers, Bautista was singing an old familiar tune. Using as justification that tired excuse, “time is of the essence”, he announced a decision to hand over to Smartmatic a contract to supply – via lease – 93,977 new PCOS voting and counting machines for the 2016 elections. With a straight face, Bautista claimed that this decision was “the most prudent approach” considering the factors of “costs, timeliness, and technical risks” and would best ensure that the May 2016 automated elections would be a “credible” one. The amount of the new contract would be P8.4-billion. (The original PCOS machines were leased from Smartmatic in 2009 for P7.2-billion and then foolishly purchased – through an option to purchase clause – in 2012 for P2.1-billion, whereupon the machines were warehoused at a cost of P9.6-million a year.)
“The Bautista decision was the denouement of a tiresome cliché-riddled zarzuela [a musical play, often comical] – beginning soon after the 2013 elections – wherein the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee disqualified Smartmatic twice and reinstated it twice, after disqualifying all other bidders.
“In making this reportedly unanimous decision, Bautista and his complicit fellow commissioners were pre-empting any Supreme Court ruling on cases pending before it regarding Smartmatic. Several had been filed by various parties essentially seeking the nullification of contracts with Smartmatic and blacklisting it for failing to meet even minimum system specifications and for assorted other transgressions of law (including the fact that Smartmatic had been revealed to be 100% foreign-owned and not a 60-40 joint venture as claimed). The petitioners included CenPEG, CenPEG chairman Dr. Temario Rivera, AES Watch, AES Watch executive director Evi-ta Jimenez, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, former Comelec commissioner Augusto Lagman, Catholic Bishop Broderick Pabillo and several of his fellow bishops, Mother Superior Mary John Mananzan, TransparentElections.org’s Maricor Akol, Philippine Computer Society president Leo Querubin, past Philippine Computer Society presidents Nelson Celis and Edmundo Casiño, and myself. The legal counsel assisting the petitioners in each one of these cases is the intrepid Manuelito Luna.
“Weighing in, presumably to put pressure on the Supreme Court, Malacañang [the Presidential palace] quickly issued a statement that the Comelec decision to favor Smartmatic with yet another contract “fulfilled its mandate of ensuring orderly and credible elections”. This made clear the level to which the Comelec-Smartmatic conspiracy to control Philippine elections reached: it reached all the way to the top. It was not therefore unexpected that the Supreme Court effectively ignored all such contra-Smartmatic petitions.
“So, despite blatant violations of our election laws in 2010 and 2013 and despite abundantly obvious flaws in the Smartmatic system, the country’s so-called “independent” election body, Comelec, awarded again a supply contract for hardware and software to be used for the 2016 automated elections to the clearly unqualified Smartmatic. It has to be a source of extreme wonderment why the Philippines’ top election officials – by now, three successive sets of them – were so attached to this dubious and shadowy foreign supplier even if its performance has been nothing short of atrocious and it was never qualified – not being the owner of either the hardware nor the software it was providing – to supply the automation technology in the first place.
That was how Kian was killed. He was killed by the war on drugs. The cause was Bautista working with Smartmatic championing election corruption and a young boy with no means of livelihood except to peddle drugs while politicians’ pockets were filled with dirty money.