THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has given its go-signal to use some 5,000 to 10,000 units of the original 82,000 old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) counting machines to supplement the 93,997 units of brand-new Optical Mark Readers (OMRs) for use in the 2016 elections.
Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, co-chairman of Task Force PCOS, disclosed on Tuesday that as approved by the Comelec en banc, the several thousands of PCOS machines would be used primarily by persons with disability and for local absentee voting.
She said the PCOS machines would be tapped for voting and tabulating votes of intended users but the tabulated results would be manually uploaded at the canvassing level.
“We still don’t understand how the transmission will work with [the]old machines and these new machines [that’s why we will manually upload the tabulated results,” Guazon explained.
According to the commissioner, the poll body would hire 400 to 500 workers to clean the PCOS machines with the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“Out of the 82,000 PCOS, we’ll clean one-third and see which of them are working. The films, rollers and batteries that are working, we will transfer to other machines,” Guazon said.
“We are happy that the DOST is providing us with technical support,” she added.
Guazon said the department would also help in local sourcing of basic parts of PCOS , such as battery, roller and film, with the actual cleaning of the machines to be done at the Comelec’s warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna.
She added that once the materials needed became available, the workers would be able to clean at least 5,000 machines in three weeks.
The PCOS machines’ vendor, Smartmatic Corp., has written that it was willing to train the Comelec people free of charge as part of the warranty of the 82,000 PCOS machines, but with a warning that the use of replacement instead of original parts could result in malfunctions.
The machines were used during the 2010 and 2013 polls.
The Comelec leased them from Smartmatic in 2009 at a cost of P7.19 billion.
In 2010, the poll body exercised its option to purchase the machines at an additional cost of P2.13 billion.
But Guanzon did not buy the argument of Smartmatic, saying, “PCOS is a scanning machine, there is no science fiction mystery to a PCOS.”
“They do have a warranty under their contract with us. That’s in the warranty but if they don’t, we have the DOST,” she added.
Guanzon pointed out that the Comelec need not conduct a bidding for the cleaning of the PCOS, saying under Commission on Audit rules, projects below P500,000 need no bidding.