Comelec says manual polls in 2016 possible

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THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) may end up doing the refurbishment and repair of 82,000 units of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines as it fears the specter of reverting back to manual elections with the issuance by the Supreme Court of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the P268-million contract awarded to Smartmatic.

Meanwhile, election watchdog Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) said the Comelec should now abandon its contract with Smartmatic and set the mechanics for a new bidding as advocated by the poll body’s legal department.

Comelec spokesman and Director James Jimenez on Wednesday said the prospect of holding manual elections remains a possibility even as he noted that the poll body is determined not to backslide to manual polls.

“So manual elections, while that remains in the realm of possibilities, in the sense that everything is possible, it is not likely to happen at this point,” Jimenez said. “The Comelec is determined not to backslide to manual [polls]and will do everything legal so that it will not happen.”

Jimenez noted that this is not the first time that the prospect of returning to manual elections was raised since it also happened in 2009 but the Comelec was able to proceed with the automated election system.

The Comelec is yet to come up with back-up plans if lifting of the TRO would take much longer or beyond the timeframe of election preparations, which is not later than the first half of the year.

But Jimenez said the poll body can explore the possibility that its technical people will themselves conduct the diagnostics, repair and refurbishment of the PCOS machines.

“I believe we have technical competence to do it. That’s something we can include in the planning moving forward,” he added.

Jimenez said it would really be a problem if the TRO was not lifted early enough because the 82,000 PCOS machines will be used in the 2016 national and local elections.

“It would really push back [our preparations]. But will it affect the outcome of the preparations? That really depends on how long the TRO remains in effect,” he added.

“If we have an early resolution and lifting of the TRO, it is possible that we can finish this program within the year,” Jimenez added.

C3E co-convenor Alain del Pascua also on Wednesday said the Comelec should abandon the deal with Smartmatic, noting that the SC decision is an opportunity for the poll body to redeem itself.

“Waste no more time justifying before the Supreme Court a patently unlawful act,” Pascua suggested, referring to the Comelec-Smartmatic refurbishment contract that former Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. signed two days before he retired.

He said the Comelec should review the performance of Smartmatic in the past two elections vis-à-vis the various complaints raised against the Venezuelan firm.

Pascua pointed out that contrary to Smartmatic’s claim of proprietary rights, the PCOS machines were already bought by the Comelec way back in 2012 and are now government property.

“The court action only cemented the fact that the extended warranty agreement between the Comelec and Smartmatic violated the procurement law, and the justifications made regarding proprietary rights and the lack of time by the Comelec are invalid,” he said.

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6 Comments

  1. The Comelec should try to do a time and motion study on how fast results of the upcoming elections for manual elections and how fast results will show for smartmatic pcos machines. If the results come out with almost the same no. of days, its a wise decision to go manual, less complaints later on who won in what election area and if there are irregularities of voting in any area it has been manually counted. Manual counting is more honest the smartmatic (smart automatic) pcos counting.

  2. Felicito C. Payumo on

    Manual is better. Remember the last Barangay elections? No dispute. No protest. Candidates accepted the results including the ties. They just settled by tossing a coin. Why? Because the counting is very transparent. All parties are there to watch and witness. At 12 am everyone knows who the winners are, so there is no need to computerize and lose transparency, when you don’t save time. Even in municipal elections,, we know who the elected mayor by 4 am after voting. It is in the manual consolidation and transmission that the Garcis and Lintang Bedols can do the cheating. The slow mail by various modes of transport from Mindanao that is
    susceptible to hijack. This is where computerization and electronic transmision should be used as recommended by AESWatch.

  3. A return to manual voting is blessing to approximating a free,honest, and orderly elections. Manual voting is a system known and can be witnessed and cheched by the ordinary voter, no matter all the conveniences a PCOS machine can offer except a fast fraudulent result. In country like ours where politicians by hook-or-by crook are so prone to win would prefer a machine to do it, difficult to discover. Like in the past uses of the PCOS machines, even the judges could not decipher what went wrong and I bet even the Comelec personnels are not fully trained to know.These machines like PC are too technical and no election law practitioner could honestly understand how it cheats. Our Supreme Court is beginning to wake-up on these machines in the interest of our democracy. Let us say amen to the TRO.

  4. Do we want an honest 2016 elections? Then, SCRAP the graft-ridden Smartmatic contract and find a repair company with integrity!

  5. Do it. Let’s have manual poll. 2010 and 2013 elections were rigged with the used of hokos pokos machines. People with their cell phones and cameras can document the integrity of the election.