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Comelec allowed to re-use 2010 poll ballot boxes


The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has allowed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to retrieve over 57,000 ballot boxes used during the 2010 elections to be utilized for the coming May 2013 midterm polls.
 
The PET had held in custody 76,340 ballot boxes due to a pending electoral protest by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas against Vice President Jejomar Binay. The PET is composed of members of the Supreme Court and is tasked to handle electoral protest cases concerning elections for president and vice president.
 
The Comelec is requesting three fourths of total ballot boxes or 57,255 for re-use, while it will bid out the supply of the remaining 24,745 ballot boxes.
 
So far, Smartmatic-Total Information Management consortium, the supplier of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2010 elections, was the lone bidder for the supply and delivery of ballot boxes.
 
The ballot boxes will be used in storing the ballots to be read by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines Comelec bought from the Smartmatic to the tune of P1.8 billion.
 
“The Tribunal finds that there was no actual opposition from the parties to the motion of the Comelec provided adequate guidelines and safeguards were set up and prior notice be given to the parties on the actual retrieval and collection of the ballot boxes,” stated the 15-page resolution promulgated Dec. 4 but which the Comelec received only on Friday last week.
 
Meanwhile, the tribunal also granted Comelec’s request to re-use the Election Management System (EMS) server and the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) laptops for next year.
 
The EMS contains the names of the candidates, the precinct numbers, the number of registered voters, the positions to be voted for and the number of seats to be elected. Meanwhile, the CCS stores the information on consolidated votes cast during the 2010 elections.
 
“The Tribunal finds no sufficient cause to disallow the Comelec from using the EMS server… because the hardware does not contain any electronic date evidencing the … votes for the vice presidential race,” PET said referring to the EMS.
 
Meanwhile, the PET also approved the transfer of the CCS so long as the Comelec secures the electronic data from being tampered with. Comelec has requested to transfer the EMS and CCS to the headquarters in Intramuros, Manila from the warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna to test if they can still be used for next year.
 
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. previously said the poll body would save money if they were allowed to re-use some ballot boxes, the EMS and the CCS.
 
According to a June 20, 2012 letter to the PET filed by Comelec law department director Esmeralda Ladra, the Comelec was allotted a “limited” budget of P7 billion for the 2013 elections.
 
Ladra added that the ballot boxes used in the 2010 elections were “specifically designed for the PCOS machines” purchased from Smartmatic. Thus, “(t)echnical glitches due to incompatibility of new ballot boxes with the existing PCOS machines will be avoided,” she said.
 
Roxas initially opposed the transfer of the ballot boxes, EMS and CSS because of fears that the data may be corrupted or tampered with. Binay, meanwhile, maintained that he had no objection as long as Comelec would safely transfer the contents.
 
Roxas later on withdrew his objection so long as Comelec secures the hardwares.
 
The poll body said they would back-up the electronic data of the CCS and EMS. The poll body also said they would transfer the ballots contained in the 57,000 boxes to the remaining 20,000 boxes in a three fourths proportion. — RSJ, GMA News