Farmers, elections and Smartmatic | Inquirer Business

Farmers, elections and Smartmatic

The agricultural sector constitutes the largest voting group in the country. But the integrity of its vote will be compromised by the possible decision of Comelec to allow Smartmatic to sell its discredited machines for the 2013 elections. This spells disaster.

During the 2010 elections, three critical groups were routinely called during the Senate and House deliberations of the proposed automated election system. These were Namfrel, Automated Election System Watch and the Alyansa Agrikultura. It was the first time the agricultural sector took part in congressional hearings that would determine the conduct of elections.

The Alyansa Agrikultura, a coalition of 42 federations and organizations representing all agricultural sectors, made a significant contribution during these hearings. Congressional co-chair Rep. Teodoro Locsin cited the AA recommendation on a proposed audit procedure that AA had designed with Mahar Mangahas of the Social Weather Stations and Baltazar Endriga, the SGV partner who created and headed the SGV’s information technology division.


AA also secured the signatures of the presidential candidates (except two) favoring an election audit that was published in major newspapers. However, the Melo Commission turned down the AA proposal.


Today, AA unites with several groups that strongly oppose the inclusion of Smartmatic among the bidders for next year’s election machines. We hope that the Brillante Commission (the current Comelec) does not follow the sad example of the Melo Commission (the former Comelec).

Smartmatic deficiencies

The major deficiencies of the Smartmatic machines during the 2010 elections are too many to cite here. However, we will cite three:

— The compact flash cards that determine how votes would be counted were not certified and found defective only one week before the 2010 elections. To make matters worse, they were changed without the necessary certification. This is a main reason why there are so many anomalies that remain unresolved.

— Several provisions to safeguard the integrity of the votes, such as the ultra-violet lamps and the digital signatures, were not only not provided, but actually disabled.

There is therefore no certainty that the votes at the precinct level were the actual votes finally recorded for the election.


— The Smartmatic machines may well be second-hand. A Sept. 17, 2011, Inquirer report stated: “A compact flash card used in one of the precincts in Pikit, North Cotabato, yielded the results of the election in Colombia.” In a March 5, 2012, letter to the Brillante Commission, AES Watch (where Agriwatch is a member) stated: “Considering their use in previous election exercises in another country, the question of how old the PCOS machines are becomes a major concern.”


Since at least eight Philippine and international election-monitoring groups have cited major deficiencies in Smartmatic that remain undisputed, why allow Smartmatic to bid for next year’s crucial elections?

An official argued: “Because Smartmatic may be cheaper.” To which a Comelec Commissioner responded: “It is also cheaper to buy pirated DVDs, but it is wrong.”

Allowing Smartmatic to bid may give you a cheaper price, but it is wrong. It would be deplorable if the Brillante Commission follows the misguided direction of the Melo Commission.

March is Women’s Month

The only voting sector larger than the agricultural sector is women. Chair Winnie Monsod of the Movement for Good Governance will explain why many women strongly oppose Smartmatic’s possible involvement in next year’s elections. This is supported by leaders of the Rural Women’s Movement.

AES Watch has stated: “We respectfully submit that the noncompliance by Smartmatic-Tim of the minimum requirements and capabilities that impaired the accuracy, security and auditability of the May 2010 elections should be a ground for disqualifying the company from participating in the bidding for the 2013 elections.”

All who value election integrity should join hands with these agriculture and women groups in strongly opposing Smartmatic’s involvement in next year’s electoral exercises.

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The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and former undersecretary of agriculture and trade. For inquiries, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112.

TAGS: agricultural sector, Elections, Philippines, Smartmatic

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