There is a kind of magic that has attained the status of an urban legend, and it goes by the name of Smartmatic.
‘matic na yan sa Pilipinas, as they would say—referring to both “automatic” and corruption.
As the Philippines say goodbye and good riddance to Smartmatic which has completed good business for the last 15 years in its partnership with our Commission on Elections (Comelec), we wonder if Atty. Glenn Chong, blogger Miss Maharlika, Secretary Eliseo Rio, Gus Lagman, Isaac and Ordono are now happy that the Comelec en banc has banned the Caracas, Venezuela outfit from further participating in the procurement bidding of the poll body.
Sa Caracas pa lang nitong si Smartmatic… hindi na gagawa nang mabuti!
Finally, the George Garcia-led Comelec told Smartmatic: We have had enough, give back to the Filipino people the democratic elections that we had known, the elections that we used to own before automation took them away from us.
Chairman George Garcia announced on Wednesday that henceforth, Smartmatic cannot participate anymore in any bidding for the poll body’s procurements.
Larry Gadon’s take
Here’s a statement from my friend Larry Gadon, now Secretary Larry Gadon, the Presidential Adviser on Poverty Alleviation.
“I hail the decision of the Comelec in disqualifying Smartmatic from participating in any upcoming and future elections in the Philippines.
Smartmatic is a cheating machine.
In the 2016 Smartmatic cheated BBM in the Vice Presidential race which was confirmed by the results of the 2022 elections.
In 2022, Smartmatic was unable to cheat PBBM by reason of the overwhelming turnout of voters which resulted in the 31M votes of PBBM. The highest presidential votes ever, the 2nd highest being PRRD at 18M votes. The Marcos Loyalist votes took a vengeance as a protest to the 2016 cheating.
In 2022, Smartmatic cheated some senatorial candidates.
How can some candidates who call PBBM son of dictator, tax evader, son of human rights violator and many derogatory names get more votes in Ilocano provinces than some Uniteam senatorial candidates? It is hard to accept as reality that they did not get at least one half of the 31 million votes.
Nagbenta ang Smartmatic ng Senate seats.”
I believe Secretary Larry is correct here, as why would anti-BBM senatorial candidates win over Marcos co-campaigners in Uniteam in Ilocos Norte? I cannot wrap my mind around this improbable result.
It is just like the hard-to-believe voting result in which Benigno Aquino III won over Joseph Estrada in the presidential race in 2010—in the city of San Juan, Metro Manila and in the province of Laguna, which were Estrada bailwicks.
Smartmatic’s engagement in the Philippines was punctuated with accusations of fraud and inefficiency, not only from the camps of losing candidates but also from those who won. The Comelec started to use the automated voting system of Smartmatic in the 2008 election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and from then, this tech firm from Caracas has been a key feature in Philippine elections.
Smartmatic handled the 2010 general election in which Benigno Aquino III succeeded President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and also the 2013 midterm elections.
During the presidential election of 2016, complaints against Smartmatic prodded the Supreme Court to rule that each voting machine should print a receipt, which barely assuaged the grievances of the perennial complainers. Even if Rodrigo Roa Duterte won convincingly with several million votes against other candidates, he and losing vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. complained of being cheated by Smartmatic and Comelec combined. Duterte claimed that his winning margin should have been bigger, and Marcos engaged the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo in a long-running election protest.
In the 2019 Senate election, Smartmatic was minimally involved because the Comelec purchased its voting machines following the 2016 elections. With the Comelec in charge of both operation and supervision, the May 2022 election was held with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte winning overwhelmingly.
Finally, Smartmatic had to go, understandably unlamented. But for the wrong reasons—because its officers allegedly bribed former Comelec Chair Andy Bautista to get the contract. Bautista is facing charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and bribery by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
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