Comelec to reuse PCOS machines for 2013 polls
MANILA, Philippines—It’s final.
The Commission on Elections will reuse Smartmatic’s automated voting machines for the 2013 midterm elections despite strong opposition from various election watchdogs and reform advocates.
Voting 5-2, the Comelec on Thursday decided to exercise the “option to purchase” over 80,000 precinct count optical scan machines (PCOS), saying that Smartmatic, its technology provider during the May 2010 elections, has already corrected glitches in the system.
“We decided, 5-2, in the (commission) en banc that we just go with exercising the option to purchase these Smartmatic machines,” Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters in a phone interview Friday.
Brillantes said “almost all” of the glitches that occurred in the 2010 elections have already been corrected since last year as Smartmatic was prepared for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections, which was reset from August 2011 to coincide with the 2013 midterm elections.
Brilliantes said that among the factors considered in the decision to reuse the PCOS machines was the lower budget approved by Congress for the 2013 elections–P7 billion instead of the P10 billion being sought by Comelec.
The voters’ familiarity with the Smartmatic machines was also one of the considerations in the Comelec en banc’s decision, he added.
Out of the P7 billion, between P1.8 million to P1.9 million will be allotted to purchase the Smartmatic machines.
Brillantes also noted that the commissioners, except for Commissioners Augusto Lagman and Christian Lim, agreed to purchase, aside from the machines, the automated election system (AES) software and the consolidation and canvassing system.
The rest of the allocation will be used by the Comelec’s special bids and awards committee to bid out next month services for the 2013 elections which include ballot printing, supply of ballot paper, warehouse rental and hiring of technical personnel, among others.
“Since last time, the contention of many is why give it all to Smartmatic? Our decision is like a compromise since we exercised the option to purchase the hardware and software, we will open the bidding for the other services,” said Brillantes.
But he was quick to add that Smartmatic will not be prevented from participating in the public bidding of these services since they have not been blacklisted by the election body.
“Since they were not happy that the services [were] not given to them, we told them that they can just participate in the bidding if they want,” Brillantes explained.
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