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2 groups oppose Comelec decision to use PCOS

MANILA, Philippines—A poll watchdog on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to form a credible project management team to oversee the 2013 automated elections.

At a weekly forum hosted by the Catholic Media Network, Automated Election System (AES) Watch said it was against Comelec’s decision to purchase the Precinct Council Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in the last decision. “But if worse comes to worst” and the poll body goes ahead with this plan, then having a reliable project management office (PMO) could produce a more trustworthy system for next year’s elections.

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“That’s what we need [because in the previous elections] Smartmatic was in charge of the implementation…that should be under the project management of the Comelec,” noted Nelson Celis, AES Watch co-convenor, at the forum in Intramuros, Manila.

He urged Comelec to appoint experts and credible people from the poll body to the PMO.

Reiterating that the AES was “totally against the purchase of the PCOS machines,” Celis added that the 2013 midterm elections could still be credible if the Comelec would just follow to the letter Republic Act No. 9369 or the Poll Automation Law.

“It (the use of PCOS machines) is still workable if the Comelec would follow the procedures to come up with a very credible and trusted system,” said Celis.

Another poll watchdog, the Workers’ Electoral Watch (WE Watch), also called on the Comelec to scrap its decision to purchase the PCOS machines of Smartmatic.

“Up to now, workers are wondering why several PCOS machines broke down or suffered from paper jams during the 2010 polls, glitches that could have compromised the integrity of the election results,” WE Watch convenor Anna Leah Escresa said.

“Why would the government buy an automation technology which had been shown to be faulty, shady and undemocratic?” Escresa said in a statement. “Why not tap the pool of Filipino information technology experts who can develop our own technology for elections?” she added.

WE Watch is an electoral watchdog group of workers’ organizations and unions nationwide that aims to have democratic, credible, secure and transparent elections. It was initiated by the Quezon City-based Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research.

Voting 5-2, the Comelec last week decided to buy the 80,000 PCOS machines for the midterm elections next year, exercising the “option to purchase” provision in their 2009 lease contract with Smartmatic.

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Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the P7 billion budget provided by Congress for the 2013 polls was one of the major factors in the decision.  The 80,000 machines have been estimated to cost between P1.8 million and P1.9 million. The rest of the funds would be used for other needs such as ballot paper and printing, technical support, warehouse rental and others.

Brillantes also said Smartmatic has been fixing the glitches in the PCOS machines.

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TAGS: 2013 automated elections, Comelec, Commission on Elections, PCOS machines, PMO, Precinct Council Optical Scan, project management office, Smartmatic
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