The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is investigating the allegation that the camp of a 2022 presidential candidate had met with the president of Smartmatic, the poll service provider during the last national and local elections.

Senator Imee Marcos disclosed this during the Senate plenary deliberations on the Comelec’s proposed 2024 budget upon the inquiry of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

“There have been allegations that a certain camp of a certain candidate met with the owner of Smartmatic during the election period of 2022. Has this report reached the Comelec and [has] the Comelec investigated this report?” Pimentel asked.

He pointed out that meetings between interested political camps with poll service providers should be prohibited.

Marcos, in response, said the reported meeting “was also studied by the Comelec and they initiated an investigation.”

The results of the said investigation have not yet been released, Marcos said, pointing out that the Comelec is eyeing to release the result of the investigation before the end of December.

“Before the end of December, there should be a result  or a finding by a 12-man investigative panel that’s been constituted by the chairman to look into all these different allegations, both in 2022 and other recent elections,” she said.

Apart from the alleged meeting between a 2022 presidential bet’s camp and the Smartmatic executive, Marcos mentioned that the Comelec is currently deliberating on the petition seeking to disqualify Smartmatic from future procurements of the poll body as well as the alleged bribery of former Comelec chairman Andy Bautista.

“There are two opportunities to look into that. One, is the Smartmatic disqualification and the Chairman Bautista incident and in addition, the 12-man panel. So, we hope to get to the bottom of this at the earliest possible time,” Marcos said.

When Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri asked if the camp mentioned in the allegation was the winning camp, Marcos did not give a direct answer, saying only that the allegation has been reported in newspapers.

Pimentel then urged the Comelec to find out if the meeting really did happen.

“Pero sana (but I hope they) don’t make it open-ended by assigning to the 12-man committee so many things to investigate. Kahit ‘yung unang tanong na ‘yon (they should find out) if it really happened as a matter of fact,” he said.

According to Marcos, the Comelec has no information if the Smartmatic president has visited the Philippines in 2022. She said a certain Cesar Flores was the one who has been transacting with the Comelec.

“Ang laging pinapangalanan ‘yung Cesar Flores but we’re not aware of the corporate structure, the sister company, and the overall organization,” Marcos said.

“He was the president as [per] the records of Comelec, siya ‘yung presidente ng Smartmatic pag nag-aapply dito sa Pilipinas… of the joint venture here in the Philippines,” she said.

This did not sit well with Pimentel. “Your main partner in running the elections, you do not even know the personalities behind,” he said.

“The allegation is that the owner of the mother company of Smartmatic Philippines was the one who visited here and met with the camp of a candidate, an interested party. So I hope the Comelec can also be interested in finding out the truth,” Pimentel said. —KBK, GMA Integrated News