MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Investigation Team, which looked into the controversial alteration of the programming scripts on Election Day, has recommended the payment of Smartmatic International in full for its services rendered in the May 2016 national and local polls.
In its 13-page Fact-Finding Report, which was submitted to the Commission en banc, the group suggested that the latter should indemnify its service provider in the last May 9 elections, noting that there were no violations committed when a “cosmetic change” was conducted on Election Day.
“With the aforesaid findings, the payment of our contractual obligations and retention fees with Smartmatic as provided in the Automated Elections System (AES) contracts should proceed,” according to the report.
It noted that the reason for them to pay the multinational company in full was the absence of established guidelines on the processes involved in the controversial alteration.
“As the Fact-Finding Team observed from its documents validation, the creation of the script and provision of the Data Package and the Data Push Process were not part of any of the contracts with Smartmatic,” they added.
The “cosmetic change” involved the changes made on the names of candidates to reflect the “Ñ or ñ” instead of “?”.
Several cases were filed because of the controversy, including the one by vice presidential candidate and former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who accused Smartmatic and Comelec personnel of violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
At the same time, the panel headed by Comelec–Law Department head Maria Norina Casingal suggested that any additional services outside of the original Terms of Reference of the contracts must be included in future elections.
They noted that clearer guidelines on all aspects of the electoral exercise must be established for the poll body to avoid a repeat of the said incident.
“Clearer and more specific guidelines should be established, with emphasis on the strict protocols on the mode of distribution of election results via the Transparency Server and Mirror Server and the functions of each and every personnel involved,” the report added.
On the other hand, the seven-man panel of the Comelec has yet to issue a decision on the recommendation of the investigation team.