Should we retain Smartmatic for 2025 elections?

THE Manila Times reported on Thursday that the "Commission on Elections (Comelec) wants brand-new vote counting machines (VCMs) for the 2025 midterm elections, warning that reusing the 90,000 old VCMs would lead to problems because the machines are already obsolete."

Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia "pointed out that 1,300 VCMs conked out during the last May 9 presidential elections," and he is sure that "there will be more [VCMs that will malfunction and] that will give us problems in the coming elections."

According to Garcia, some 106,000 VCMs were used in the 2022 polls. Of these, 97,000 were owned by the Comelec, while the remaining 9,000 were rented from Smartmatic Corp. He added, "I will pursue to my last breath and blood the retirement of the 90,000 counting machines."

Is this a prelude to conditioning the minds of the public that Comelec would buy 90,000 VCMs from Smartmatic again? This sounds suspicious, considering that there have been calls since 2010 to ban Smartmatic from supplying voting machines to Comelec. In fact, I can still remember Garcia complaining against Smartmatic during the pendency of their electoral protest for the vice president position in 2016. He was not only complaining but, in fact, also accusing Smartmatic of cheating in favor of certain candidates.

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I advised my fellow electoral reform advocates not to lose hope because one of us, Dr. Nelson J. Celis, has already been appointed as a Comelec commissioner. Celis is a known adversary of Smartmatic. However, since his designation as one of the poll body's commissioners, he has remained silent on this issue.

Smartmatic allegedly hacked Kenya's presidential election.

The remaining half of this column should have been dedicated to the various suspicions of fraud against Smartmatic relative to the Philippine elections. However, a popular columnist from another broadsheet newspaper texted me on Thursday afternoon an online link to a report about three Venezuelans illegally breaching the election servers of Kenya, so I opted to discuss this instead.

On Aug. 30, 2022, www.breitbart.com/africa/2022/08/30/kenya... published a story that said, "The Kenyan national police service's investigative unit, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, allegedly determined in recent days that three Venezuelan nationals had illegal access to Kenya's electoral commission servers five months ahead of the country's general election on August 9, during which a disputed presidential vote occurred."

Raila Odinga, the presidential candidate of the opposition Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition party in the August 9 general election, is contesting the results of the presidential vote. Odinga alleged that the vote's results were fraudulent and has filed a petition with Kenya's Supreme Court contesting the election results. A portion of the petition reads:

"Combined with the capability of the foreigners and anyone in possession of the contents and information in the electronic devices to remotely access and manipulate the entire IEBC data; and the manifest discrepancies and irregularities manifest during the General Election and the tallying, verification of count and declaration of the presidential election result; it is the inevitable conclusion that not only was the presidential election not secure, it is not verifiable, accountable, neutral or transparent."

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati claimed that "the three Venezuelan nationals recently arrested by Kenyan authorities were contracted by IEBC to provide support on behalf of Smartmatic International, the company contracted to provide electoral management technology by the commission."

The Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the 2017 presidential election after it found the commission did not follow proper procedures in tallying votes and transmitting the results. The same Supreme Court will decide the petition of Odinga on September 5.

Venezuelan tres amigos

"A separate forensic analysis by the East African Data Handlers on the six data transmission servers used by IEBC showed that several unauthorized individuals gained access to the system (www.eyeradio.org/kenyan... )" It was revealed that "Salvador Javier, Jose Gregorio, and Joel Gustavo, the three Venezuelans who were arrested on July 21, were also accessing IEBC's systems before, during and after the polls."

"It seems as though there was a middleware that was intercepting, receiving, and/or sending information between the Kiems kit or the county tallying servers and the presidential tallying server and verification of specific forms," according to the analysis.

According to LinkedIn.com, Joel Gustavo Rodriguez Garcia, 38 years old, has been Smartmatic's global services senior deployment manager since 2017. He directs and manages the Field Services Warehouse and Logistics and Technology Deployment of the business operations of Smartmatic, Panama. The deployment of electoral services and solutions to the technology company's clients in America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as the Asia-Pacific area, is part of his responsibilities.

Caracas-born Jose Gregorio Camargo Castellanos, 32 years old, and Salvador Javier Sosa Suarez complete the cast of the tres amigos. Their LinkedIn accounts, though visible in the search list, can no longer be publicly accessed.

The East African News reported on August 5 that, "The Smartmatic International BV, through its Integrated Communications Director Ms. Samira Saba, said the three were full-time employees of the company having handled elections in other countries like the United States, Belgium, the UK, Bulgaria, Albania, the Philippines, among others."

Did I read it correctly that these tres amigos have handled the elections here in the Philippines? Well, another story for the digging...

With all of these horrendous election fraud stories going around, shall we still trust Smartmatic for our future elections?

"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

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