MANILA, Aug 26 (Mabuhay) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer purchase new Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 local and national elections, its chairman said Tuesday, citing budgetary constraints.
During the hearing of the Senate committee on finance, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said with only P16.9 billion budget approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for 2015, they cannot afford to purchase about 120,000 brand news PCOS machines needed for the next elections.
“The suggestion of the executive is to use the existing ones and buy additional more. So, most likely we will be using the same machines and the same hardware used in 2013 elections and purchase some brand new ones na hindi nalalayo ang system sa existing natin,” Brillantes told the committee.
Brand new PCOS machines will cost the Comelec more than P18 billion, he said.
In an interview after the hearing, Brillantes said the existing PCOS machines are still in good condition.
“Ang election machine is only being used for one day,” he said. “Oo nga anim na taon na sa’tin yan pero hindi naman nasisira yan…Sa America nga 17 years same system pa rin ang ginagamit.”
Brillantes said the Comelec originally asked from DBM a P35 billion budget for 2015, but the DBM deemed it necessary to exclude the proposed budget for the conduct of a plebiscite for the creation of the new Bangsamoro territory as well as other operating expenses.
“The DBM said the budget for the plebiscite will just be included in a law to be passed for the creation of the Bangsamoro juridical entity,” he said.
He said the Comelec currently have 80,000 PCOS machines purchased from Smartmatic in 2012 and used in the 2013 elections. He said they need to purchase 41,000 more PCOS machines.
Brillantes said that with the limited budget for the machines, the Comelec also decided to lower down the number of voters per precinct or cluster from 1,000 in 2013 elections to 600 in 2016.
Smartmatic has ‘advantage’
Asked by committee member Sen. Nancy Binay from which company the Comelec intends to buy the additional PCOS machines as well as the hardware to be used for them, Brillantes admitted that purchasing from Smartmatic has an “advantage.”
“The recommendation of the CAC (Comelec Advisory Council) is to make sure that the systems for the old machines will jive with the news ones. Dapat hindi naman malayo dun sa OMR (optical mark reader) technology na ginagamit natin for the existing PCOS. In that sense, purchasing from Smartmatic has an advantage,” Brillantes said.
In an interview after the hearing, Brillantes, however, clarified that there is no final decision yet that the Comelec will purchase the additional machines from Smartmatic.
“Nakakalamang ng konti ang Smartmatic kasi kung gagamitin natin yung luma, dapat kapareho, mahirap naman kung masyadong magkaiba. Pero pwede pa rin naman yung iba, ipapakita lang namin yung PCOS ng Smartmatic, kung kaya nila gayahin at mas mura e di sila yung bibilihan namin nung 41,000 new machines,” he said.
Brillantes said that other than Smartmatic, there are four other companies that signified intention to supply the 41,000 new machines. He said the Comelec is set to conduct the bidding in October.
Brillantes said their technical experts also added additional security features in the OMR to make it tamper-proof.
The finance committee approved the Comelec’s proposed budget for 2015 for plenary deliberations. (MNS)