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Comelec told to weigh options on voting machines

Lawmakers urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to study its options on whether to lease the Precinct Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 and 2016 elections or to just buy it, whichever is advantageous to government in financing the elections.  


In House Resolution 1909, Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez urged the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to conduct an inquiry on the plans of the Comelec to lease new PCOS machines for the 2013 elections at the cost of P8 billion instead of purchasing the same PCOS machines that were used during the 2010 elections for only P1.8 billion taking into consideration the huge savings for government.  

Rodriguez said Comelec can purchase the PCOS machines for the 2013 and 2016 polls by paying the balance of 33 percent or P1.8 billion under its contract with Smartmatic, a private company which owns the PCOS machines.  

However, Rodriguez cautioned that if the Comelec would lease the machines from Smartmatic for the 2013 and 2016 elections, the government would spend P22 billion.  

Members of the newly formed Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) — the panel tasked to recommend the type of automation technology which the country will use in the 2013 national elections — recently took their oaths of office at the Comelec Session Hall.  

Comelec commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman, an IT expert, is against the procurement of the PCOS machines as he has repeatedly said that poll contractor Smartmatic did a poor job in automating last year’s elections.  

According to Rodriguez, right after the May 2010 elections, the Comelec announced that it may also shelve any plans to purchase the used PCOS machines due to possible problems in storage and maintenance.  

Rodriguez said the Comelec also announced that they instead plan to conduct another round of bidding for the lease of a different set of PCOS machines for the upcoming elections instead of exercising its option to purchase the PCOS machines used during the 2010 elections.  

“However, it has been claimed by Smartmatic that the Philippine government can save as much as P22 billion if it buys the used PCOS machines now and uses them in the next four elections,” Rodriguez said.  

Rodriguez said there are also concerns that the used PCOS machines would readily become obsolete considering the pace at which technology evolves and the rate at which hackers are able to access new security features of computers.  

“There is a need to study the options available to the government and to look into new and up to date safeguards for the existing PCOS machines and consider, which the best option is without sacrificing the integrity of the elections,” Rodriguez said.  

Abante Mindanao party-list representative Maximo Rodriguez Jr, another author of the measure, said the country experienced its first automated elections last May 2010 amidst doubts with the security features, accuracy, and reliability of the PCOS machines leased by the Comelec from Smartmatic.  

“The automated elections were generally successful with only minor glitches mostly due to time constraints and logistics and the results were released in record time,” Rodriguez said.