Comelec rules out manual polls in 2016

Michael Bueza
The poll body plans to either bid out the refurbishment of existing PCOS machines or bid for brand new ones

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruled out the possibility of conducting manual elections in 2016, opting to choose between two plans for an automated election.

The decision comes more than a week after the Supreme Court nullified the contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) to refurbish and repair the 82,000 existing precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

In an en banc session on Thursday, April 30, the Comelec narrowed down its options to either bid out the PCOS refurbishment contract or bid for around 63,000 new PCOS machines, said spokesperson James Jimenez in a text message.

Asked if the poll body would be able to secure either procurement within a year, in time for the polls, Jimenez replied, “We believe so, yes.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on April 21 to cancel the P268-million Comelec-Smartmatic contract put the poll body’s preparations for the 2016 elections in jeopardy. The Comelec earlier said that it will not reuse the existing 82,000 PCOS machines “without proper maintenance and repair.”

Besides its two cited options, the Comelec had considered returning to manual elections, just to avoid a “no-election” scenario on May 9, 2016.

It also thought of setting up a modified central count optical scan (CCOS) system, using the 23,000 additional optical mark reader (OMR) machines it is currently seeking to lease. PCOS machines use the same OMR technology.

The poll body also heard the proposal of former Comelec commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman to use a mix of manual and automated processes. (READ: Poll watchdog pushes for ‘laptop count’ to replace PCOS)

Meanwhile, Jimenez said that the Comelec will file a manifestation before the SC “to clarify a few crucial points” in the high tribunal’s decision.

The SC, acting on the petitions of poll watchdogs and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, ruled that the Comelec failed to justify directly contracting with Smartmatic for the PCOS repairs, instead of holding a public bidding. –

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.