The use of the 93,000 Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines in next year’s elections may be illegal, Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list warned on Saturday.
Ridon said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should determine if the OMR machines are compliant with the Automated elections law.
The OMR is different from the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used during the 2010 and 2013 elections that were supplied by Smartmatic, from whom the poll body will lease the OMR machines.
“The Comelec will lease new machines from Smartmatic. But we need to ask—are these machines compliant with existing election laws, especially the provision in Section 10 of RA 9369 (Automated Elections law) which states that systems used for elections should first be tested successful in either a local or foreign elections?” Ridon said.
He noted that the OMR machines may not have the exact specifications and software previously used in past Philippine elections, thus, the need to evaluate these machines.
The Automated Elections law reads: “the Comelec is authorized to procure, in accordance with existing laws, by purchase, lease, rent or other forms of acquisition, supplies, equipment, materials, software, facilities and other services, from local or foreign sources free from taxes and import duties, subject to accounting and auditing rules and regulations. With respect to the May 10, 2010 elections and succeeding electoral exercises, the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad. Participation in the 2007 pilot exercise shall not be conclusive of the system’s fitness.”
“As the integrity of the national elections is at stake, we need to follow the law to the letter. So we ask: Has Smart¬matic been able to conclusively prove their new machines’ capability in past elections, even in other countries? Otherwise, our election system is at the brink of disaster,” Ridon, a lawyer, said.
He and fellow opposition lawmakers Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list earlier criticized the Comelec for being wasteful and impractical by leasing the OMRs, thus leaving the P10 billion worth of old PCOS machines useless.
Smartmatic backed out from the bidding for the rehabilitation and repair of old PCOS machines for lack of time.
But Ridon said Smartmatic’s act was tantamount to blackmailing the Comelec.
“Smartmatic-TIM practically coerced Comelec to enter the new lease contract. Smartmatic now practically has a monopoly over the Philippine electoral system…and such monopoly may jeopardize the integrity of the upcoming elections,” he warned.
“The Aquino administration is treating the upcoming elections like a rushed birthday party, complete with rented out videoke – or in this instance – OMR machines. This is why Filipinos should exercise heightened vigilance in the months leading to the elections,” he added.