Philippines' high court overturns ban on vote machine firm

Smartmatic, which was involved in the last five Philippine national elections between 2010 and 2022, went to court last December to challenge the ban

By AFP

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A mother holding her child goes through voting documents at a polling station for the nationwide village and youth elections in Manila on October 30, 2023.— AFP file
A mother holding her child goes through voting documents at a polling station for the nationwide village and youth elections in Manila on October 30, 2023.— AFP file

Published: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 1:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 1:46 PM

The Philippines' highest court overturned a ban on voting machine company Smartmatic that prevented it from bidding for election contracts, court documents showed Wednesday.

Manila's poll administrator Commission on Elections (Comelec) imposed the ban against Smartmatic Philippines Inc. in November, after the company was implicated in a corruption probe launched by the US government.


The ban meant the local unit of the London-headquartered firm was not allowed to take part in the tender for the 2025 midterm elections, which was later awarded to another company.

The ban stemmed from an investigation launched by the US Justice Department against former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista for "receiving bribes in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp," according to Comelec.


Smartmatic, which was involved in the last five Philippine national elections between 2010 and 2022, went to court last December to challenge the ban.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Comelec had "committed grave abuse of discretion" by sanctioning Smartmatic, according to a summary of the decision released on Wednesday.

But it did not scrap the results of the 2025 tender for the 18.8 billion peso ($329 million) 2025 election system contract, which had excluded Smartmatic.

In a statement, Smartmatic hailed the ruling as "a significant victory for fairness and the rule of law".

"We remain committed to assisting Comelec and the nation in advancing the modernisation of our electoral processes," said Christian Robert Lim, a lawyer representing Smartmatic.

Comelec chairman George Garcia said officials were meeting to discuss the ruling.

Bautista, who headed the election commission from 2015 to 2017, has previously denied the US Justice Department allegations.

In the United States, Smartmatic filed defamation lawsuits against allies of former president Donald Trump over claims its machines were used to manipulate the results of the 2020 election.


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