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Comelec rules out no-el scenario in 2013, settles budget issues with Palace

The Commission on Elections on Wednesday said the 2013 midterm elections “will push through” after the poll body settled budget concerns for the execise with Malacañang. Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the executive branch had already agreed to give back the poll body’s P5-billion savings to augment its P8.4-billion budget for next year. “This has already been settled. I immediately talked to Budget Secretary Butch Abad and he said the P5 billion will be reverted back to the Comelec. We already agreed on how this will be given back to us,” Brillantes said during the hearing for the poll body's budget at the House of Representatives Wednesday morning. Brillantes initially warned that the elections next year might not push through after his agency’s budget was cut by P2 billion compared to its budget last year. He even threatened to resign due to the budget cut. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez meanwhile said the P5 billion will come from the poll body’s savings after it was able to purchase the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used next year for only P1.8 billion, despite an allocation of P7 billion for this purpose. P6.1B for midterm polls Comelec Deputy Director for Finance Lea Alarcon, for her part, said the poll body is expected to spend over P6.1 billion for the 2013 midterm polls, when 52.5 million voters are set to cast their votes. Alarcon said the amount will be spent on the warehousing of PCOS machines and for the purchase of other election paraphernalia such as ballots, ballot boxers, thermal papers and marking pens. Aside from this, the poll body will set aside P205 million for absentee voting for Filipinos aroad, she added. Alarcon likewise said that the Comelec will need P3.5 billion for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and barangay elections, which is also scheduled in October next year. An additional P185 million will be allocated for voter registration for the grassroots elections, she said. — LBG, GMA News