Philippines’ voting machines to be made in China

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines’ voting machines to be made in China
The Comelec downplays concerns that the West Philippine Sea dispute can affect the manufacturing of voting machines

MANILA, Philippines – Controversial firm Smartmatic is set to manufacture the Philippines’ 93,000 voting machines in China, and deliver these to the Southeast Asian country by January 2016. 

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, August 25, said the voting machines or optical mark readers (OMRs) will be made in the Chinese city of Suzhou.

In a news conference, Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim said Smartmatic will deliver the OMRs to the Philippines on a gradual basis until January 2016. 

Smartmatic will start in 2015 by delivering at least 5 OMRs by September, 200 by October, and 6,000 by November.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body, in the first place, chose to lease 93,000 OMRs because the Comelec expects these to be delivered by January 2016. (READ: It’s final: PH to use contentious voting machines)

“That will give the Comelec enough time to test these machines,” Bautista said.

Bautista said the Comelec will penalize Smartmatic if it fails to meet the deadline in January 2016.

Lim said the penalty, for every day of delay, is around a fourth of 1% of the contract’s total amount.

At the same time, Bautista downplayed concerns that the sea dispute between Manila and Beijing can affect the manufacturing of voting machines.

Earlier source code review

Unang una, itong mga manufacturing facilities are actually controlled by US companies,” Bautista said. (First of all, these manufacturing facilities are actually controlled by US companies.)

He added: “Number two, siyempre ‘yung mga makinang ‘yan, ibabalik dito. Tapos no’n, titingnan nating lahat kung they are performing in accordance with the specifications and our expectations.”

(Number two, of course those machines will be delivered to the Philippines. After that, we will all check if they are performing in accordance with the specifications and our expectations.)

The Comelec earlier said it is set to implement another safeguard to ensure that voting machines cannot be easily rigged.

Bautista said the poll body is scheduled to open the machines’ “master blueprint” for review before February 2016, or at least 3 months before the elections.

This master blueprint is called the source code.

In 2013, the Comelec presented the source code of voting machines for review only on May 9, or 4 days before elections.

“This is important because organizations usually complain that they have too short a time to review the source code. So now we’re opening up everything so you have all the time now until the election day to review all the codes,” Lim said in Filipino.

Bautista added, “This is one difference between how 2016 will be conducted as opposed to 2010 and 2013.” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at