CLARK FREEPORT – Commissioner Grace Padaca clarified here yesterday that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has not yet arrived on any decision on whether to buy new precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 national and local elections, as the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) has yet to come out with a recommendation this June on the issue.
In an interview here during a jobs fair and special voters’ registration for persons with disabilities (PWD) and Aetas,
Padaca said thathe Comelec cannot yet decide on any such purchase without the CAC recommendation.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes, who is retiring in February next year, was recently quoted as having asked Congress to allocate P11 billion to purchase 121,800 new PCOS machines for the 2016 polls. But Pacada said Brillantes might have been misunderstood. “Perhaps he was merely answering a follow up question,” she added.
“All will depend on the recommendation of the CAC. We have been asking the CAC since last January to submit to us its recommendations, and we expect it this June,” she said. “Possibilities on what CAC will recommend have put the cost from P6 billion to as much as P60 billion, but we cannot be sure unless the CAC recommendation is out,” she noted.
Padaca said the CAC was reorganized last December in preparation for the May polls in 2016. To bolster its technical capacity, the CAC, whose members include information technology experts from the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Education, has taken in new members from the Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP) and the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PHCERT).
Under the law the CAC is tasked to recommend the most appropriate, secure, applicable and cost-effective technology for the 2016 elections. “If the CAC recommends that the 81,000 PCOS machines used in 2010 and 2013 be used again, then that’s what we will do. Of course, this would also require cost since they have to be updated or repaired,” Padaca noted.
She said the CAC might even recommend the use of both old and new PCOS or only new PCOS. Asked what the
Comelec plans to do with some 81,000 old PCOS machines in case new machines are recommended, Padaca said “it’s an issue we are still discussing, perhaps they would be used as scanners or what, but there is no final decision yet.”
Earlier reports, however, quoted Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr. as saying said the P11 billion was included in the proposed P36-billion budget of the agency for 2015 that it earlier submitted to Malacañang.
Tolentino said they intend to start conducting public biddings next year for the purchase of the PCOS machines.
He said the Comelec will also consider other suppliers of PCOS machines aside from Smartmatic- Total Information Management, the company that supplied machines for the 2010 and 2013 elections.
This, even as Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III urged Comelec to “take a look at other possible technologies or systems” and determine their viability as replacement for the PCOS machines for the 2016 elections. “The Comelec wants to purchase new machines.
They are still PCOS, using the same technology,” said Pimentel. “We’d like the Comelec to tell us in a report if it has taken a look at other technologies or systems. If so, what are these technologies? Are they viable? How do they compare with the PCOS in reliability and speed of transmission?” Pimentel asked.