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Comelec abused authority — SC

Rey E. Requejo & Vito Barcelo

The Commission on Elections committed grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Smartmatic even before it submitted any bid for the 2025 elections, the Supreme Court said.

In an en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Midas Marquez, the High Court ruled in favor of Smartmatic, but said its decision was not sufficient to nullify the contract for the vote-counting machines awarded to South Korean firm Miru Systems.

“[The SC] held that Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Smartmatic before it had submitted any bids, without any reference to the eligibility requirements prescribed by its Bids and Awards Committee,” SC spokesperson Camille Ting said.

“It held that Comelec implemented a discretionary pre-qualification regime antithetical to Government Procurement and Reform Act,” she added.

But Ting said the validity of Miru Systems contract with Comelec was not the issue presented in the case before the SC.

Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco said they are ready should Smartmatic file counter charges against them.

“If it gets to that point, we are ready to face this and we know and believe that the decision of Comelec was based on its desire to give importance and maintain a fair and orderly elections,” he said.

In November, the poll body disqualified Smarmatic from all procurements due to allegations of bribery against former Comelec chairperson Andres Bautista over the contract awarded to Smartmatic for election machines.

“As of now, Smartmatic can indeed participate in the next elections, but this is subject to, let’s say if anyone files a disqualification case against them again,” Ting said.

Smartmatic representative Christian Lim welcomed the ruling.

“By rectifying Comelec’s questionable decision, the Court not only vindicated Smartmatic but also set a crucial precedent for upholding transparency and accountability in public procurement processes,” Lim said in a statement.

“The ruling does justice to the 90 percent of Filipinos who support automated elections, and who believe that Smartmatic’s work since 2010 has resulted in a stronger democracy and unquestioned legitimacy of our leaders,” he added.

Lim said the abrupt and illegal disqualification of Smartmatic just days before the bidding led to a non-competitive procurement process.

“Having been vindicated, Smartmatic stands ready to explore further opportunities to contribute to the ongoing modernization of Philippine elections—a transformative journey it began over a decade ago. We remain committed to assisting Comelec and the nation in advancing the modernization of our electoral processes,” Lim said.

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