THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering asking Congress for a P14-billion supplementary budget for the purchase of additional counting machines for use in the 2016 elections.
This is one of the options being eyed by the poll body should the Supreme Court (SC) fails to lift the temporary restraining order it issued stopping the implementation of the contract awarded to Smartmatic for the diagnostics and repair of 82,000 old precinct count optical machines (PCOS).
“We have started planning our contingencies. One of the possibilities we are looking into is the acquisition of new (counting) machines,” Comelec spokesman James Arthur Jimenez said on Thursday.
Jimenez said without the 82,000 machines, the Comelec will only have 23,000 units of precinct-based optical mark reader (OMR) machines. He said the Comelec asked Congress for a P16 billion budge for the lease of 120,000 brand new OMR machines, but the poll body only got P2.5 billion, just enough for 23,000 OMR units.
He said they will inform Congress of the budget request once Comelec officials have finished consultations with other concerned agencies and election stakeholders.
Another option, Jimenez said, is the holding of partial automation.
He said the old PCOS machines can still be used in the 2016 elections because the TRO covers only the diagnostics, repair and refurbishment.
But the official said the poll body will not use the machines if these were not inspected or repaired.
“The Comelec will not allow it. We will not allow it even if we are sure that majority of the machines are in good condition. But we will not use them without preventive maintenance,” Jimenez stressed.
“It is in the interest of prudence and to ensure the success of 2016 elections that we need to actually maintain these machines,” he added.