If poll count is done manually
THERE is yet no certainty that next year’s electoral exercise will be fully automated.
Newly appointed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista on Tuesday admitted that the poll body is facing a number of challenges in its preparations for the national and local elections in 2016.
“We are committed to follow the [Automated Elections] law. There are different schools of thought: a full automation and the other one where everything will be automated except for the precinct-level counting [of votes]. It can be subject to a fair debate, unless there is a consensus among stakeholders on how to conduct the elections,” Bautista said when he briefed members of the House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms panel on the commission’s preparations.
He added that the poll body will need to increase the number of precincts to 300,000 from the current 82,000 if the precinct count will be done manually. If the tabulation is not automated, Bautista said they will need a million teachers, way higher than the 250,000 teachers required under full automation.
“There is a logistical issue [if there will be manual precinct-level counting]. There are advantages, like transparency. We need to weigh them and consult the stakeholders and Congress,” Bautista said.
Also, the former Presidential Commission on Good Government chief said the Comelec will conduct a parallel public bidding for the refurbishment and repair of the 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the purchase of 100,000 Optical Mark Reader voting machines to ensure that the 2016 presidential elections will push through as scheduled on May 9, 2016.
The Supreme Court junked the P260 million deal entered into by the Comelec with Smartmatic for the refurbishment and repair of PCOS machines because it did not undergo public bidding. The contract awarded to Smartmatic was signed just before former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. retired on February 2, 2015.
“We can’t wait for the refurbishment bid to fail before buying new OMR units. We have to do it at the same time,” Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino said.
Only recently, the Comelec also disqualified Smartmatic-TIM from the P2.5 billion contract to supply 23,000 counting machines because the units provided by the joint venture failed to meet the required technical specifications.
“If we had all the time, we would do one first [bidding for refurbishment/repair]following the other [bidding for purchase], but May 9, 2016 is not a moving target. We will indicate in the terms of reference that the contract for the purchase of OMRs will be cancelled if the refurbishment/repair deal will be secured,” Bautista said.