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Smartmatic calls on Comelec to use existing VCMs in 2025 polls

Poll service provider Smartmatic called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to utilize the warranty up to next year of the more than 93,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs) leased to the poll body.

In a press release, Smartmatic said the Comelec could still use the VCMs for the 2025 elections, which can amount to billions of savings for the national government.

"Smartmatic, in compliance with the [earlier] agreements, does affirm the availability of parts, labor and technical support and maintenance to the Comelec until the year 2025. Additionally, this contract provision may be implemented within three months," Smartmatic said in a three-page letter addressed to Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia.

Smartmatic was referring to the two lease contracts for VCMs it entered into with the Comelec in 2015 for the 2016 elections.

The service provider said that a total of 93,977 units of precinct-based optical mark reader (OMR) machines and their accompanying election management system (EMS) are still covered by the warranty.

Meanwhile, Smartmatic reminded the Comelec that the poll body still owns the automated elections systems (AES) software for the EMS, vote counting system and consolidation and canvassing (CCS) or the overall system used in the 2022 elections.

Smartmatic said this AES had been certified by the international certifying body ProV&V and TEC, and was used with the VCM in the 2022 elections.

"Hence, for the 2025 national and local elections, the Comelec may use the existing VCM machines and the Comelec-owned AES software used and certified in the 2022 national and local elections," Smartmatic said.

"Most notably, using the VCMs and the [previously] certified AES can save the Comelec and the country billions of pesos, if used in next year's midterm polls," it added.

In November 2023, the Comelec disqualified Smarmatic from all procurements of the poll body due to allegations of bribery against former Comelec chairperson Juan Andres "Andy" Bautista "in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp."

Smartmatic said the disqualification was unfair as it was based on "mere news reports and unofficial, leaked documents from abroad" are "utterly and facially unacceptable in any jurisdiction, including the Philippines."

Bautista is currently facing multiple charges of money laundering in the southern district court of Florida.

The United States Department of Justice has recently denied reports that Bautista is under its custody. — VDV, GMA Integrated News