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Comelec exec fears sabotage: China ‘biggest threat’ in 2016 polls

/ 04:49 PM September 16, 2015

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is worried that China may sabotage the 2016 elections because of the territorial dispute in the country, a poll commissioner said Wednesday.

READ: Chinese hackers stealing digital info from PH gov’t agencies

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In a hearing at the House of Representatives suffrage and electoral reforms committee, commissioner Christian Robert Lim said an intelligence report said China may sabotage the next presidential elections.

Lim said it was relayed to him by a commissioner who had a contact in the military.

This is why the poll body made sure with Smartmatic, the supplier of the ballot-reading Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, to manufacture in Taiwan the new 79,000 optical mark reader (OMR) units to be leased for the 2016 elections.

“I also want to emphasize that the move to Taiwan as a product of contract negotiations because we have received intelligence reports that there may be an attempt to sabotage the elections by China… I feel personally that the biggest threat to the 2016 elections is China,” Lim said.

“We made it a point to discuss with Smartmatic that we did not want the factory in China… We made a condition in the contract negotiations that we will do it outside China. We don’t want complications,” Lim said.

The Philippines is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over almost the entirety of the West Philippine Sea. The country elevated its territorial dispute with China before the United Nations arbitral tribunal at The Hague.

READ: PH makes ‘impassioned plea’ vs China before UN tribunal

China is claiming most parts of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) by virtue of its nine-dash line, while the Philippines said the area is part of its exclusive economic zone.

The Comelec said it is only playing safe when it wanted the venue of the OMR manufacturer outside China.

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“For me, it pays to be paranoid to make sure elections happen,” Lim said.

Lim said the poll body also avoided China over fears of a trade embargo come January when the decision of the arbitration court over the dispute is expected.

“Once China decides to make a trade embargo na walang trade, so any product made in China will not be coming in the Philippines. Walang machine. There’s a lot of possibilities,” Lim said.

The poll body resorted to leasing with option to purchase of 77,000 new OMR machines and to leasing 23,000 new OMR units from Smartmatic for the 2016 elections.

The decision was made after a parallel bidding was conducted between leasing new OMR machines and refurbishing the old 82,000 PCOS machines used in the past two elections.

The parallel bid was seen as the poll body’s solution after the Supreme Court invalidated the P268.8 million PCOS refurbishment deal with Smartmatic because the poll body failed to justify the direct contracting with the Venezuelan firm. The Comelec under then chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. went into direct contracting with Smartmatic to refurbish and repair the old machines because these were bought from Smartmatic.

The poll body’s use of nearly 100,000 new PCOS machines in 2016 would lessen the number of voters per clustered precinct to 800. There is one PCOS per clustered precinct, according to the Comelec. IDL

Originally posted 1:50 P.M., September 16

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TAGS: China, Christian Robert Lim, comelec, PCOS machines, sabotage, Smartmatic
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