Buy PCOS machines only if flaws are corrected, elections watchdog tells Comelec

Rappler.com
Watchdog group says the poll body's limited budget permits the purchasing of old machines, but machine errors should be addressed first

MANILA, Philippines – An election watchdog suggested Tuesday that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should make sure that flaws in the 2010 election machines have already been corrected before purchasing them for the next elections.

The group Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER) said that the poll body can opt to just purchase the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines of 2010 instead of leasing brand new machines. “With its limited budget, the Comelec can consider buying the [old PCOS] machines,” said IPER head Ramon Casiple.

But Casiple reminded Comelec that it should make sure that manufacturer Smartmatic has already corrected the reported flaws of its PCOS machines.
    
The use of Smartmatic’s PCOS machines in the 2010 polls was marred by controversies, among them the misconfiguration of the compact flash cards and the removal of several security features.

Leasing brand new units will cost Comelec P6.2 billion, while buying the 2010 PCOS machines will only cost the poll body P1.8 billion. A P7-billion budget is allocated for the 2013 elections.  

If Comelec will buy the old machines, only around 81,000 of the 82,000 2010 PCOS machines will be available for purchase, since the poll body has already bought close to 1,000 machines for use in electoral protest cases.

There are those, however, who wish to completely prevent Smartmatic from participating in the next national elections.

It was reported that Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman does not like the idea of purchasing the machines, saying that the poll body may be liable of violating the Government Procurement Act or Republic Act 9184.

Section 3 of RA 9184 states that “all procurement of the national government, its departments, bureaus, offices and agencies, including state universities and colleges, government -owned and/or-controlled corporations, government financial institutions and local government units, shall, in all cases, be governed by these principles… (b) competitiveness – by extending equal opportunity to enable private contracting parties who are eligible and qualified to participate in public bidding”.

Lagman supports the idea of leasing brand new election machines for the next national elections.

Election watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch), on the other hand, suggests the disqualification of Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for new machines in the next polls.

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) has already decided to use the optical mark reader (OMR) system, particularly the PCOS configuration, for the 2013 elections.

The Comelec is reported to be in need of 125,000 units of PCOS machines. -Rappler.com

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