Comelec sticking with derided scan machines in 2016

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DESPITE complaints raised in the past two elections about reliability of the precinct counting optical scan (PCOS) machines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is still considering using the same devices in the 2016 national polls.

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Based on a briefing paper of the Department of Budget Management (DBM) on the highlights of the P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015, the Comelec is eyeing to procure P11.43-billion worth of assorted new equipment including additional 41,800 new PCOS machines to augment the 80,000 units in the poll body’s inventory.

The DBM paper, which was submitted to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, stated that the Comelec is asking for a P16.8-billion budget for 2015 or six times higher than its 2014 budget of P2.8 billion.

Of the P16.8-billion proposed budget, the poll body is planning to spend P3.76 billion for the procurement of additional PCOS machines at P90,000 each.

The proposed amount the Comelec is planning to use to purchase additional equipment for 2016 does not include the P1.2 billion for “preparatory activities” like voter’s registration as well as funds for the election year proper.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said that he does not see any problem with the proposal of the poll body particularly its plan in augmenting the existing number of PCOS machines.

According to Pimentel, he will wait for a study being conducted by the Comelec on what it believes to be the best system to adopt in the 2016 elections that will pick the successor to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

“Actually it is the decision of Comelec. Congress cannot dictate on them,” he said in an interview.

Recto added that he finds the cost of holding elections expensive especially if budgets for them would become regular requests every three years.

“I am interested in knowing is if this will be a recurring expense, if this is what we will have to shell out every time we hold an election, which in this land is once every 500 days,” he noted.

He said aside from national elections, polls are also called for Sangguniang Barangay (SB) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) posts every three years.

For the SB and SK elections, 672,442 officials are chosen, a chairman for every SB and SK in 42,028 barangays (villages) and seven council members for each SB and SK. In addition, about 18,050 national and local posts are elected.

Recto said the proposed P11.4 billion for new Comelec equipment is 19 times bigger than the proposed P592 million for NAIA expansion, 28 times of what the government will be paying 398 new doctors in 2015 and two and half times the total senior citizen’s pension of some 739,000 elderly.

“It is three and a half times of what our national vaccines and immunization budget is for next year, 11 times bigger than the Community Mortgage Program budget and 22 times bigger than the Quick Reaction Fund of the Department of Agriculture for calamities,” he added.

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