THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is most likely to hold elections next year using Optical Mark Reader (OMR) counting machines.
A source at the commission said the use of OMR machines has become inevitable since the poll body has declared the second public bidding for the repair, refurbishment and upgrading of 81,896 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines held on August 1 a failure.
In place of PCOS machines, the Comelec will use 93,799 OMR machines to automate the national and local elections next year, the source said.
The insider, who requested anonymity, told The Manila Times that Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista will announce the poll body’s decision after the regular en banc meeting today.
“All indications point to the use of the OMR machines. It’s pretty clear, I believe, that the Comelec is left with no other options but an all OMR,” the source told the Times. “Actually as of press time, the Comelec en banc is having a special meeting on the matter,” he added.
In June this year, the poll body decided to award the contract for the lease, with option to purchase, 23,000 OMR machines from the joint venture of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) and Jarltech International Corporation.
However, a petition stopping the awarding of the contract was filed at the Supreme Court by a group led by former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman.
Smartmatic also bagged the contract to lease 70,977 OMR machines.
The Comelec had wanted to push the rehabilitation of old PCOS machines used in two previous elections to save on cost but the lone participant in the second bidding — the joint venture of Dermalog Identification Systems, Avante International and Stone of David Tactical Equipment — was disqualified for submitting non-responsive bids.
“The issues being considered by the Comelec at the moment are cost, timeliness and technical risk. The difference between cost of refurbishment and lease of new machines is around P2.5 billion,” Bautista had said.
The poll body even increased the approved budget contract from P2.88 billion to P3.1 billion because it was more inclined to use the old PCOS machines.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the cost per unit of a refurbished PCOS is P23,574.05 compared to the P56,303 per unit of a brand new OMR.
Smartmatic backed out from the bidding for the repair of the PCOS machines saying that there is no more time to refurbish the old machines.