Comelec eyes CCOS technology to have automated polls in 2016
MANILA, Philippines – There’s still hope for automated elections in 2016.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that if it pushed through with the bidding for the lease of 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines, the 2016 balloting could still be automated even if the Supreme Court junked with finality its deal with longtime technology partner Smartmatic to repair the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units.
“If we push through with the bidding now, we will have 23,000 (OMR) machines. So we can do it. It can be done. It’s really just a question of how you’re going to marshal your resources,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez in an interview with reporters on Friday.
The Comelec is currently conducting a public bidding for the lease of the 23,000 OMR units set to be used to supplement the 81,000 PCOS machines, whose repair by Smartmatic under a P268.8-million contract with the election body has been stopped by the Supreme Court last week.
Voting 12-2, the high court on March 24 issued a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the extended warranty contract following separate petitions filed by the Automated Election System Watch (AES) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
In filing the petitions, the two entities said the Comelec violated the Constitution and Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law when it issued Comelec Resolution 9922 that paved the way for the awarding of the contract to Smartmatic.
Jimenez said the Comelec could still push for an automated balloting next year even with just a few machines by adopting the Central Count Optical Scan (CCOS) system.
“In 2004, we were ready to do automation nationwide with only 1,991 machines. So, we are not ruling out any possibility. We are not running out of ideas,” said Jimenez, referring to the controversial Mega Pacific voting machines that were supposed to be used in the 2004 presidential elections.
But prior to the 2004 presidential balloting, the high court barred the Comelec from using the machines after finding irregularities and other violations during the bidding.
Under the CCOS system, the OMR units would be quartered in a central area, where all the paper ballots would be scanned and read by the machines, explained Jimenez.
But this scheme could be exposed to risks of ballot snatching and violence since ballot boxes would have to be transferred from the precincts to the designated counting area, he admitted.
“We already talked about the CCOS but we also want to see by how much it will shrink [the number] of counting centers,” he said.
“We also have concerns about the long-distance transfer of some of the ballot boxes. The most we are ready to concede is to limit only in the polling centers so if the transfer is just within the polling centers it will be okay. But we have reservations if the transfer will be from one town to another,” he added.
Aside from the possibility of ballot snatching, congestion or delay in the scanning and reading of ballots may most likely crop up under the CCOS system, said Jimenez. SFM
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