VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Website MISLEADS on Comelec response to Duterte order

Website ran June 5 a misleading report claiming the Commission on Elections is scrambling to replace technology provider Smartmatic upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders.

It bore the headline: “NABULABOG ANG BUONG COMELEC PAPALITAN AGAD ANG SMARTMATIC SA ISANG UTOS LANG Ni PANGULONG DUTERTE (Comelec scrambles to replace Smartmatic upon President Duterte’s command).”

The headline is an exaggeration of the story’s content -- a pirated 10-minute news package aired by CNN Philippines two days prior that carried, among others, a report that gave updates on the possibility of replacing Smartmatic, which has provided vote-counting machines since the country’s first automated elections in 2010.

Nowhere in the CNN news package did Comelec categorically say it will replace Smartmatic upon Duterte’s command.

Poll chief Sheriff Abas only said he thinks the nine-year-old VCMs already need replacing. He added, however, that while there are Korean, French and Spanish companies that have expressed interest in bidding for new machines, the Comelec is bound by the automated elections system law which lists “experience” as one of the requirements; and the procurement law, unless Congress exempts the poll body from bidding rules.

In the same report, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Eliseo Rio also said Duterte directed the agency “to come up with options that can be used in future elections,” adding that Smartmatic is not one of them.

The story gained more than 6,500 interactions on social media and could have reached some 980,000 people. It was posted at least 28 times on Facebook by pages including Atty Glenn Chong Supporters Group, Kadayawan Davao and DUTERTE PARA SA BAYAN!.

Duterte said on May 30 that he wanted Smartmatic out due to alleged cheating during the 2019 midterm elections. He also said he wanted to remove the bidding process for the next election supplier. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the president's statement will be a big factor in the poll body's next move but said Commission of Audit rules require public bidding.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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