Brillantes: 2013 polls will be automated despite TRO

Comelec will push through with an automated 2013 midterm elections, whatever the decision of the Supreme Court will be

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will push through with an automated 2013 midterm elections, whatever final decision the Supreme Court would be issuing.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes told ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, on Tuesday, April 24, that the poll body has no plans of reverting to manual elections even with the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued against the purchase of old election machines in next year’s polls.

The Supreme Court (SC) issued on the same day a TRO in favor of petitions that question the legality of purchasing the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 elections. The petitions, filed by the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S) and AES Watch on April 10, alleged that the poll body should have conducted instead a public bidding to purchase new election machines for the 2013 polls, since glitches were found when the Smartmatic-TIM PCOS machines were used in the 2010 national elections.

SC spokesman Midas Marquez said the Court will hear oral arguments on the case on May 2.

Timeframe unaffected

“We have already anticipated cases to be filed [against the purchase of Smartmatic-TIM machines]. That’s why we made the purchase early. But we pray that the case would be resolved immediately,” Brillantes said.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) exercised the “option to purchase” 82,000 PCOS machines from Smartmatic-TIM for P1.8 billion on March 30, more than a year before the May 13, 2013 polls.

If ever the SC decides to make the TRO permanent, Brillantes said they are prepared to conduct a bidding process to procure new election machines. He explained that with the early purchase of machines and the issuance of a TRO, they have more time to process the bidding for the election machines.

He said that in the 2010 elections, the award to manufacture the PCOS machines was given only in August 2009, which makes the machine production close to the election date. “Because of that, we started to prepare early. I think we have more time to bid for companies,” he said.

The poll body wishes, however, that the SC would come up with a decision fast. “Our problem here is that if it takes the SC a long time to discuss, then it would be late already,” Brillantes said.

The Comelec chairman said that he wishes the SC to come up with a decision by mid-May. “Any further delay will disrupt our preparations,” he said.

Downside

Brillantes acknowledged disadvantages if the SC favors the petitions against the Smartmatic-TIM machines.

“It’s difficult to manufacture new machines for the elections. At least, the Smartmatic machines are already available,” he said.

Brillantes raised budget constraints. He said the poll body decided to buy the old PCOS machines due to the insufficient budget of P7 billion for the 2013 elections.

“The budget is really designed for us to buy the PCOS machines. Given this budget, we are practically forced to do it,” Brillantes said. – Rappler.com