(My original post)
Today, I grieve for my country!
Today marks the day when the COMELEC (Commission On Elections of the Philippines) awards the contract for the Poll Computerization Project to Smartmatic!
Today marks the day when the COMELEC is handing over Philippine Democracy to the hands of thieves!
Today marks the day when our freedom to choose our rulers becomes a farce, a cheap sideshow!
Who is Smartmatic?
FACT: Smartmatic is a Venezuelan company funded by the Venezuelan Government under the Dictator Hugo Chavez who narrowly won a recall election which used the questionable Smartmatic machines.board of directors of Smartmatic Corporation, which is formed by Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica Rivero, Roger Piñate, Antonio Mugica Sesma and Luis Feliu . Its principal place of business is 1001 Broken Sound Parkway, NW, STE D, Boca Raton, FL 33487. The company's history in Venezuela dates back to seven years ago when the venture was "the Research and Development Unit of Panagroup in Venezuela" .
The Miami Herald reported on Friday May 28, 2004 [ F2 EDITION]:
"A large and powerful investor in the software company that will design electronic ballots and record votes for Venezuela's new and much criticized election system is the Venezuelan government itself... Venezuela's investment in Bizta Corp., the ballot software firm, gives the government 28 percent ownership of the company it will use to help deliver voting results in future elections, including the possible recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez, according to records obtained by The Herald... Until a year ago, the Bizta Corp. was a struggling Venezuelan software company with barely a sales deal to its name, records show. Then, the Venezuelan government -- through a venture capital fund -- invested about $200,000 and bought 28 percent of it" (sic).
Venezuelan journalist Orlando Ochoa Teran investigated the claims published by the Miami Herald and discovered that Venezuelan officials were behind the incorporation of Smartmatic. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Venezuelan Ambassador to the USA Bernardo Alvarez Herrera are intimately related, either through long time friendship or consanguinity relationship, to the directors of Smartmatic. According to registry documents, that went missing after the Herald blew the whistle, the names associated to the company are Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica and families Gabaldon-Anzola and Herrera-Oropeza . The incorporation of Smartmatic took place in the Fifth Mercantile Registry, located in the ground floor of tower B in “Cubo Negro” building in Chuao Caracas. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel's daughter -lawyer Gisela Rangel Avalos de D'Armas was, at the time, the head of the said registry.
Since March 2004 the CNE has disbursed at least $131 million to Smartmatic.
FICTION: Smartmatic International is a Dutch Corporation!
While it is true that Smartmatic International is registered in Amsterdam, its owners remains to be the same. The registry of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, contains details of a venture trading under the name Smartmatic International Holding B.V., incorporated, under a different name, on March 18th 1.985. Its registered address is Naritaweg 165 Telestone 8, 1043BW Amsterdam. The company activities are described as "to purchase, develop and manage property and goods" . The sole shareholder of the holding is Amola Investments N.V., which in turn was incorporated in the registry of the Chamber of Commerce of Curaçao, under number 91615. A search for Amola Investments N.V. in the register of Curaçao's Chamber of Commerce returns no results. However the incorporation number does exist in the register, containing not information related to Amola Investments N.V. but to another company by the name of Smartmatic International Group N.V. Curaçao Corporation Company N.V. , Netherlands Antilles Corporation Company N.V. and Roger Alejandro Piñate Martinez -Vice President, Special Operations of Smartmatic Corporation - are the three listed statutory and managing directors of the group.
Evidently, Smartmatic's registration with the Amsterdam Chamber Of Commerce was a ploy to make it appear that it is a Dutch company. Apparently, this is in preparation to making a bid for the computerization of the Venezuelan elections as well as to buy total controlling interest on Sequoia Voting System which has a contract to run elections in a county in Chicago, USA.
FACT: Smartmatic does not have a manufacturing facility of its own and only subcontracts its machines with other manufacturing companies which do not carry the products Smartmatic is offering in their catalogs. As in the Venezuelan experience, Smartmatic bought the machines from Olivetti in Italy which never had prior experience in manufacturing electoral machines before.
Info Venezuela News had this to say on the matter:
20.000 AES300 machines were bought from Olivetti, however the Italian firm does not have such a model in its catalog of products but one called MAEL 205, which was designed to play lottery. Ochoa noted that the said machines produced by Olivetti were sold to Peru, India and Tunisia not for electoral purposes. Smartmatic did not fulfill the CNE's criteria in terms of experience in organization and conduct of electoral processes of companies that participated in the bidding process. The obstacle was circumvented by hiring Jorge Tirado, former contractor of IFES and director of Caribbean Government Consultants (CGC):
Jorge Tirado, president of CGC, has been consultant for the State Electoral Commission of Puerto Rico since1975. He has participated in more than 63 electoral processes as consultant or as head of CGC, leading technological initiatives and process lines to ensure transparent elections.However El Universal reported that Tirado had indeed participated in 63 electoral processes not in the condition of organizer but as an observer contracted by IFES , Jimmy Carter's organization with which he has an old relationship.
FICTION: Smartmatic owns 10% of Jarltech Taiwan which will manufacture the PCOS machines.
Smartmatic's claim of 10% ownership of Jarltech has not been thoroughly verified by COMELEC's SBAC, and available information about Jarltech does not include Smartmatic as one of its investors. For a PHP 11.3B project, it is but prudent that extensive investigation on the matter must first be made and not rely merely on notarized documents submitted by the bidder (which can easily be fabricated). Besides, PCOS machines have never been fabricated by Jarltech before and this will be the first time they will be producing such machines - which make Smartmatic ineligible in terms of organization and experience in the conduct of electoral processes.
Smartmatic have had a history of circumventing rules to bag a contract as in the Venezuelan experience where they subcontracted the machines to Olivetti. Since COMELEC rules clearly forbids subcontracting the manufacture of the machines, Comelec in possible collusion with Smartmatic officials is bending rules at this point by relaxing eligibility requirements of bidders.
The whole idea behind the prohibition of subcontracting machines is to make sure the bidder has the manufacturing capability to undertake the project on one hand. On the other hand, it is for security purposes since the only one who undergoes the COMELEC's scrutiny is the bidder and not its subcontractors. For a matter as sensitive as the country's electoral process, this is one area we must all be concerned with. It is a matter we must see to the very end.
FACT: Smartmatic Sold US subsidiary due to CFIUS investigation
Smartmatic purchased Sequoia, a leading voting-equipment vendor, in 2005. The company has been under a cloud of suspicion since the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, began a national-security investigation last fall. The concern was that the Venezuela, headed by President Hugo Chávez, who is known for anti-U.S. antics, might have undue influence in Smartmatic. Given the growing distrust of electronic-voting systems and the fear of vote manipulation, careful review of Smartmatic was justified. Smartmatic initially resisted the CFIUS investigation. Later, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department had undertaken a different investigation of Smartmatic. This investigation was related to possible bribes and tax evasion in Smartmatic's sale of voting equipment to Venezuela's government for use in its 2004 presidential recall election.
FACT: Smartmatic has a convoluted ownership structure
Smartmatic's ownership structure is so convoluted that it is virtually impossible to verify all its owners. Parent company Smartmatic International is owned by a Netherlands company, which is owned by Curacao trusts, which in turn, are controlled by unnamed investors.
The Venezuelan government once had a stake in a company closely linked to Smartmatic. Venezuela invested in Bizta, which is owned by two of Smartmatic's main owners, including Mr. Mujica. Bizta provides software for Smartmatic's voting system and joined Smartmatic in selling that system to the Chávez government for the 2004 recall election. Venezuela sold its stake in Bizta after The Miami Herald reported on the investment, which prompted complaints that the Chávez government shouldn't have any interest in machines that would determine his stay in office.
FACT: The Smartmatic machines used in the last ARMM election showed some faults. When the machines were presented before Congress, the same faults were noticed. During the just concluded technical evaluation of the machines, smoke came out of the cables.
Observers to the ongoing technical evaluation of the machines were also prevented from using their cell phones while machine testing was ongoing as they claim the cellphone signals may interfere with the machines' transmission of data....an open admission of a possible machine flaw which amazingly no one paid much attention to.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF ALL THESE?
There must be a hidden agenda behind the uncanny haste with which the COMELEC is pushing the Poll Computerization Project. I can even relate the recent Congress' approval of ChaCha as a smoke screen to divert people's attention to it so that the awarding of the project to Smartmatic will go on without a hitch and the project implemented promptly. It is equally concerning that the Parish Pastoral Council have not raised any of these points during the technical evaluation.