Gov’t cuts budget for 2013 elections

Rappler.com
After the SC favored the purchase of old PCOS machines, the Aquino government slashed the budget for next year's polls to P8.383 billion.

MANILA, Philippines – With the purchase of old automated election machines, the government has slashed out some P2 billion from the budget for next year’s polls.

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad said on Monday, July 9, that the budget allocated for the 2013 elections is now P8.383 billion, down from the original allocation of P10.017 billion.

The budget cut follows the decision of the Supreme Court that favors the purchase of old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from Smartmatic. The High Court issued in April a TRO on the machine purchase due to legal questions raised, but lifted this in June.

Buying the 2010 PCOS machines will cost the Commission on Elections (Comelec) P1.8 billion. The poll body reportedly opted to exercise an “option to purchase” the old Smartmatic machines to save money. Leasing brand new units will cost the Comelec P6.2 billion.

Payment to Smartmatic will be made in 3 tranches. The first tranche will be made as soon as Smartmatic finishes testing and delivers 50% of all machines to Comelec.

Several election watchdog groups previously opposed the Comelec’s proposal to reuse Smartmatic’s PCOS machines, saying they are “inferior quality and non-compliant with original specifications.” 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.

The P8.383-billion budget would be used to fix problematic machines, pay the per diem of public school teachers and fund other operational expenses of next year’s nationwide polls. – Rappler.com

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