Don’t look now, but Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela – who was crowned Miss Universe 2008 – arrived in Manila last night from New York for a 3-day visit in connection with her functions as Ambassador of Transparency for Smartmatic – the company which conducted the country’s first-ever automated elections last May 10, 2010. I must admit that her arrival took me by surprise. I initially wondered why Smartmatic President Cesar Flores (who’s also Venezuelan) would invite her over when the elections are over. She was paid quite a handsome fee for doing so. Read the news item below courtesy of ABS-CBN News.com:
Smartmatic taps Miss U as transparency envoy
By Reynaldo Santos Jr., abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak
Posted at 06/14/2010 11:46 PM | Updated as of 06/15/2010 12:29 AM
MANILA, Philippines – As various watchdogs, IT specialists, and civil society groups continue to present alleged evidence of electronic fraud in the just-concluded first nationwide automated elections that used a system by Smartmatic, the Venezuelan firm is bringing in a beauty queen from its home country for a counter public relations offensive.
Election machine provider Smartmatic has appointed Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza as its Ambassador for Transparency, who will do a 2-day “goodwill” tour of the Philippines starting Tuesday.
Mendoza is a Miss Venezuela, representing the country where Smartmatic’s headquarters are located. Venezuela is known for having produced the most number of international beauty queens.
The beauty queen’s visit comes as Smartmatic is hounded by questions on the security of its system and the credibility of the results as churned out by the more than 76,000 vote counting machines it provided for the 2010 presidential and local elections.
More and more quarters are complaining, and presenting alleged evidence, that the compact flash cards used in the machines were pre-loaded with votes to favor certain local and national candidates.
According to Smartmatic’s advisory, Mendoza “will be helping the company in its advocacy for transparency in the electoral process.”
“This is just our gesture of thanksgiving and goodwill,” Smartmatic spokesperson Gene Gregorio told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak.
Activities in store for the beauty queen’s visit include a meeting with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and various government and non-government groups “as part of the campaign effort to encourage public support for democratic and fair elections.”
The 2008 Miss Universe will also be donating laptops to selected communities “as part of the company’s efforts to educate the next generation of voters in technology. It will be a goodwill round of activities,” Gregorio said.
“It’s a natural development for her to represent transparency worldwide. Having represented the world [through the Miss Universe pageant] is good enough for her to generate goodwill,” Gregorio said.
Gregorio, however, clarified that it’s not Mendoza’s job to clear Smartmatic of the issues that critics continue to raise against the company. “As far as we’re concerned, we have done our job. [All public officials] have been proclaimed already,” he said.
In previous press conference, Smartmatic president for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores assured the public of its transparency with its poll preparations. “Everything has always been transparent, and will continue to be transparent. Everything has always been public,” he said.
It will understandably be important for Smartmatic to clear its name in the Philippines because it’s targeting to bag the automation contract of a neighboring country.
It’s setting its eyes on Indonesia, which will hold its next national elections in 2014. Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)
Ok, so Dayana Mendoza’s visit is a goodwill act from Smartmatic. The Venezuelans know how pageant-crazy the Philippines is. So putting the two together would mean increasing the popularity of Cesar Flores’ organization which is currently eyeing Indonesia as its next project venue for automated elections.
Anyways, Dayana will be in the country till Thursday, afterwhich she will return to the US to resume her studies.