Can’t afford more delays–Comelec
Any further delays in the poll preparations could put at risk the credibility of the May 2016 elections, the Commisssion on Elections said on Tuesday.
“It will materially impact our elections in 2016…on how we can conduct it in a credible fashion,” said Comelec Chair Andres Bautista.
He said the Comelec cannot afford another setback in the ongoing parallel public bidding for the automated election system (AES).
“At this point, that’s hypothetical. But I think we cannot afford any more delays. We’ve got to move forward,” Bautista told a press briefing.
“As you know the means on how we will conduct it…in an automated setting, it takes time to manufacture the machines. It also takes time to refurbish the machines. It also takes time to have the source code certified. There are a lot of things that need to be done,” he said.
The Center for People Empowerment in Government (CenPEG) has filed a petition at the Supreme Court to stop the parallel public bidding for the AES.
As it is, the Comelec is already running late with its original timeline, patterned after the calendar used in the previous two automated elections, said Commissioner Christian Lim.
The Comelec originally set July 31 as its deadline for making a decision on which system to use in the 2016 polls.
Post qualification evaluation
“We wanted a comparison with the timelines that we had in 2009 compared to now. Definitely, in 2009, they issued a ‘notice to proceed’ sometime in June or July. So we are seeing how much (activities) are going to be pushed back,” said Lim.
The Comelec’s special bids and awards committee 1 (SBAC) is already conducting a post-qualification evaluation of the bid of Smartmatic–Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. for the lease contract for 70,977 optical mark reader (OMR) units.
Lim said the SBAC 1 has sought an additional five days for it to complete their evaluation.
In addition, the SBAC 1 has also issued a recommendation for the Comelec en banc to issue the notice of award to Smartmatic-TIM for the supply of 23,000 OMR machines.
The poll body’s SBAC 2, meanwhile, will receive and open the bids on Aug. 1for the second round of bidding for the refurbishment of the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. The first round of bidding failed when no bids were submitted to SBAC 2.
Crucial to timeline
Bautista said the first two weeks of August will be very crucial in terms of how the Comelec goes about in its poll preparations, including choosing which system is to be used in the 2016 elections.
“I would say that the first two weeks of August would really be crucial with respect to the timeline. We have to make decisive decisions during these two weeks in order to meet the timeline,” he explained.
Asked about any contingency plans, Bautista declined to disclose the Comelec’s back-up plan should the Supreme Court stop the parallel bidding for the PCOS refurbishment and the lease of new OMR machines.
But he said Commissioner Al Parreño has already been tasked to come up with contingency measures.
Bautista reiterated that the poll body has no more time to experiment with new voting schemes for 2016 elections, even if he thinks the transparent election system (Tapat) is better than the precint automated tallying system (Patas), two alternative systems being proposed.
“Tapat has some promising features. In fact, it has similar features with that of the PCOS,” he said.
“But we also have to be realistic. We are running out of time. Given our time constraints, we cannot really experiment at this point. We need to use the technology that has been tried and tested,” said Bautista.
He said Tapat has the potential to be used in future elections.
The Comelec also announced that it will be conducting public consultations concerning campaign finance rules and the calendar of activities for the 2016 polls.
“We want to eventually come up with one resolution that would basically cover all issues, including those relevant to the use of public funds, campaign finance contributions, it will be more expansive,” Lim said.