THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has formed a task force to study the possibility of using at least 6,000 units of the old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in order to achieve its goal of achieving 100,000 counting machines for use in the 2016 elections.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the creation of the task force, headed by Commissioner Luie Tito Guia and Rowena Guazon, was approved by the en banc during its regular Tuesday session.
Bautista said a number of IT firms have volunteered their services to determine the conditions of the 82,000 PCOS machines, which were used during the 2010 and 2013 elections.
He added that the purpose of the plan to use some of the old PCOS machines, aside from speeding up the voting process, is to augment the 93,997 units of new Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines which would bring down the machine to voter ratio from 1:800 to 1:600.
“That would mean greater ease for our voters because it would mean shorter lines,” Bautista added.
Comelec spokesman Director James Jimenez explained that the task force was initially formed to study the possibility of using the old machines and getting them refurbished but as to the other aspects, like the total cost of the process, the poll body is still resolving that matter.
“The Chairman mentioned from volunteers from different groups. Their potential work is to examine whether or not a refurbishment can be done right now,” he said, but “whether or not that will cost money for the government, that’s not resolved yet.”
Jimenez pointed out that the proposal of using a mix of new and old machines is nothing new but it is only now that the Comelec chief has considered it.
The old PCOS machines are currently stored in a warehouse in Laguna, which the Comelec rents for P800,000 a month.
The Comelec has earlier awarded a P260 million contract to Smartmatic for the diagnostics, repair and upgrading of the PCOS machines but was declared void by the Supreme Court for being a ‘midnight deal.”
Smartmatic has already diagnosed 1,000 PCOS units prior to the SC ruling.
Jimenez said that only 5 percent or 4,100 units of the 82,000 PCOS malfunctioned or were not used during the 2013 elections, which means that majority of the machines were still in good condition.
“As a general rule of thumb I can say that because of the successful 2013 elections, I can conclude that many of the machines are still usable,” he added.