Comelec urged to ensure return of missing vote-counting machines
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was urged to take action to ensure that the 12 missing voting-counting machines (VCMs) are returned to its custody.
During the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on the automated election system, Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr. confirmed that there are VCMs that are still unaccounted for. The Comelec currently has 97,349 of such machines.
“As far as I can recall, Sir. There are VCMs which were not returned to us,” he said, adding that these VCMs were used either during the demonstration by the regional election directors or used in the 2016 national elections.
“Intended yan for the 2016 and then all the VCMs have to be returned because, under our contract with Smartmatic, machines that are not returned on December 30 [or] the end of the year of 2016 are considered sold,” he said.
With this, Senator Nancy Binay urged the Comelec to make sure that the said VCMs are returned to their custody as they are government property.
“Pero ED (executive director), binayaran ho natin itong missing machines (Did we pay for those missing machines)?” Binay asked Tolentino, who answered in the affirmative.
“So, technically you have to exert effort to get them back because we paid for it,” she said.
Tolentino said the poll body is working to retrieve the machines. “We are, Ma’am. In fact, we have already determined to whom they were originally distributed,” he said.
However, Binay pressed Tolentino to explain further why it is taking so long to get the machines back.
“Pero bakit ho natatagalan? Hindi ho ba ang dali lang naman nun? Katulad nga ng sinabi niyo alam niyo na na yung isang RD [regional director) hindi sinoli yung isang machine, so bakit ang tagal ho nung proseso para sabihan niyo yung RD na ‘Nasan na yung machine? Akin na,’” the senator asked.
(Why is it taking a long time? Isn’t it supposed to be easy to get them back, especially as you said that you know the RDs responsible for the machines? So why is the process taking long when you could just ask the RDs to return it?)
Tolentino said he had been busy dealing with other matters.
“To be candid, we’ve been well… I’ve been busy for other matters po…hindi naman siya pwedeng magamit sa eleksyon (We can’t use them in the election anyway),” he said.
Binay insisted that the machines should be returned to the custody of the commission.
“Pero (But) that’s not the point, the point is this is government property,” she said.
Another concern that was raised about the missing machines is the possibility of votes being altered. However, the Comelec assured that it will not happen.
“As I stated in previous JCOC meetings, those VCMs will not be…cannot be used for the 2019 elections. All our VCMs that will be deployed for [the] May 13 [polls] would have to undergo firmware update and those missing VCMs did not undergo any firmware update, so hindi sila pwedeng gamitin (so they cannot be used),” Tolentino explained. /ee
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