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Comelec: PCOS machines for 2016 polls might not come from Smartmatic

The Commission on Elections might turn to other suppliers to provide the precinct counting optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 presidential polls, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Monday.

On the sidelines of the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, Brillantes said that the poll body is considering other companies along with Smartmatic-Total Information Management, which supplied the PCOS machines for the May 2013 elections.

“PCOS machines pa rin ang gagamitin natin for the 2016 elections, but it might not necessarily be the Smartmatic PCOS. Maraming alternatives,” he said.

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) is set to hold a technology fair on February 21 for companies interested in bidding for the contract.

The council was created to issue a recommendation on the kind of voting technology the Comelec should adopt for use in the 2016 polls.

Brillantes said that among the options being considered by the poll body is using both the old PCOS machines from Smartmatic and the new ones it is planning to purchase.

Smartmatic has claimed that the 82,000 PCOS machines purchased from it by Comelec for P1.8 billion could last even until the 2016 elections.

Comelec said in its report to the joint oversight committee that it will have to shell out P12.9 billion should it replace all the old machines with new ones.

The cost, however, would go down to P6.9 billion if the poll body decides to use the existing PCOS machines and just purchase additional units.

The Comelec estimates it will need 86,100 PCOS machines for the 2016 polls. Around 56 million voters are expected to participate in the next national elections.

Brillantes is hoping that Congress will approve its proposed P16-billion budget for the 2016 polls so that it could buy more PCOS machines to obtain a ratio of 600 voters per precinct instead of 1,000.

“If Congress gives us a good budget to cover the purchase of additional machines, then we can bring down the [voter limit per precinct] to 600,” he said.

The elections chair said the Comelec will only be able to shorten voting hours if the number of voters grouped in a precinct goes down.

“Yung 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. [voting period] natin noong 2013, pwede naming gawing 7 to 5 or 7 to 4 lang. Kapag mas maagang natapos ang eleksyon, ang [paglabas ng] resulta, mas mabilis din,” Brillantes said. — BM, GMA News