Comelec decides to buy Smartmatic’s PCOS
The controversial PCOS machines will be used again for the 2013 elections

MANILA, Philippines – It’s final.

After weeks of dilly dallying, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) formally decided to exercise the “option to purchase” precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from 2010 automation vendor Smartmatic. These will be used in the 2013 national and local elections.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes made the announcement on Friday, March 16, saying they decided to do this due to the insufficient budget of P7 billion for the 2013 elections.

Taking into consideration opposition to this move by various groups, Brillantes said Smartmatic is required to meet some conditions before the Comelec can actually buy the machines.

“Smartmatic started correcting those errors in 2010 last year precisely because we thought there will be elections in ARMM,” Brilliantes said, referring to the regional elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Comelec plans to buy 80,000 PCOS machines used in 2010.

Two Commissioners opposed the purchase. They are Commissioners Augusto Lagman and Christian Robert Lim.

Lagman is concerned over deficiencies of the PCOS machines in 2010 while Lim raised reservations on the validity of the extension of the 2009 contract with Smartmatic that Comelec is using as basis to justify the purchase.

A number of election watchdog groups previously opposed the Comelec’s proposal to reuse Smartmatic’s PCOS machines for being “inferior quality and non-compliant with original specifications.”

One such group, led by economist and University of the Philippine professor Winnie Monsod, went so far as saying Smartmatic should be disqualified from bidding for the 2013 election automation due to its failure to meet critical standards set by law for security, accuracy and reliability of the automated election system.

Among other matters, the group said, Smartmatic failed to check the PCOS machines for a 99.995 percent matched scanning accuracy. It also failed to implement mechanisms for ultra-violet mark detection and verification of digital signatures. –

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