Comelec eyes buying Smartmatic machines
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) remains open to using Smartmatic’s automated voting machines again for next year’s midterm polls.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., in an interview with reporters, said that due to its limited budget, the poll agency was considering its “option to purchase” the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that Smartmatic International Corp. leased to the government for the May 2010 national elections.
“We are debating whether to lease or purchase new machines or exercise the option to purchase refurbished ones. We’re talking about this because of our budget which is limited at P7 billion,” Brillantes said.
“We asked [Congress] for P10 billion really. But only P7 billion was given to us. They reasoned that we had an option to purchase. It’s as if they (lawmakers) were telling us to take the option to purchase (the PCOS machines),” he said.
Brillantes said buying new PCOS machines would cost the Comelec more than P6 billion, leaving the agency with little money for other expenses like information technology services for the system.
But should the Comelec decide to buy the used PCOS machines, Brillantes said Smartmatic must first fix their “deficiencies.”
“We saw deficiencies, although minor ones only. These should be corrected. They (Smartmatic) said they had already corrected them so we’re going to test them,” Brillantes said.
The poll chief said the Comelec en banc would have the final say on the PCOS machines, although he admitted the commissioners were divided on the issue.
“Some of us don’t want them, others do. I’m neutral, as long as they have really fixed [the machines],” he said.
Smartmatic and its partner Total Information Management Inc. won the
P7.2-billion Comelec contract to automate the May 10, 2010, national elections.
The contract only called for the lease of the PCOS machines to the government, not their purchase. The government, however, retained an option to buy the machines.
Last month, the Comelec Advisory Council recommended using the optical mark reading voting technology again in the 2013 polls. This is the same technology in the PCOS machines.
One poll watchdog group, Automated Election System Watch, called for the blacklisting of Smartmatic after the 2010 polls, saying the company failed to deliver on the terms of reference of its contract with the Comelec, as well as on the requirements of the poll automation law.