MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, June 30, opened bids for the lease of 70,977 new vote-counting machines for the May 2016 national elections.
The Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) joint venture and Indra Sistemas had submitted bids to a special bids and awards committee (SBAC) for the lease of these additional optical mark reader (OMR) machines.
The OMR technology is also being used by Smartmatic-TIM's precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that were used in the 2010 and 2013 automated elections.
A 3rd bidder, Dermalog Identification Systems, bought bid documents, but was not able to submit a proposal in time for the bid opening. The project has an approved budget of P7.87 billion.
This bidding had run parallel with another bidding for the refurbishment of 81,896 existing PCOS machines.
Both are part of the Comelec's plans to continue with automation of the polls in 2016. (READ: Comelec holds parallel biddings for 2016 vote counting machines)
On Tuesday, however, a second special bids committee declared a failure of bidding for the refurbishment contract. None of the 3 interested bidders – including PCOS supplier Smartmatic-TIM – submitted bid proposals.
After learning of the failed bidding, Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista instructed its law department to look into other options, including rebidding the refurbishment contract.
Meanwhile, Tuesday's opening of bids for the 2nd round of bidding for 23,000 additional OMR machines was cancelled, after the Comelec en banc reversed the disqualification of Smartmatic-TIM in the 1st round of bidding for the same amount of vote-counting machines.
This means that Smartmatic-TIM is set to bag the contract, but it has to wait for the Comelec's final decision on what poll system to use in 2016.
The Comelec is also considering a hybrid election system, or a mix of automated and manual processes. One example is the Precinct Automated Tallying System (PATaS) of the group of ex-poll commissioner Augusto Lagman.
The Comelec was present when the PATaS was demonstrated in a mock election on Saturday, June 27, to see if the said system is practical and viable for 2016.
Race against time
With a little over 10 months left before the May 2016 polls, the Comelec is in a race against time to finalize the mode of election.
"The biggest challenge facing the Comelec now is time. We're really losing time with respect to the non-moving target of May 9, 2016. So whenever we consider options, we have to factor in how long it would take [to prepare for and implement it]," said Bautista in a press conference on Tuesday.
"At this point, we need to examine our options on what to do going forward," said the Comelec chief.
"Our deadline within Comelec is to make a decision within July, or by the end of July, but after consultation with election stakeholders," Bautista added.
The outcome of this series of biddings will decide whether the 2016 presidential election will go fully automated, partially automated, or manual.
On July 9, the Comelec will update the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms on its plans for the 2016 polls. – Rappler.com