Should Comelec buy vote-counting machines or lease them first?
MANILA, Philippines – A congressional panel will tackle later in February whether the government should purchase vote-counting machines (VCM) outright or lease them first, and see if they are suitable for succeeding elections.
This was after the Commission on Elections (Comelec), as part of its preparations for the 2019 midterm polls, recently decided to buy the VCMs it rented for the 2016 elections.
Cibac Party List Representative Sherwin Tugna, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, told Rappler on Monday, February 5, it is "within Comelec's powers" to exercise such option.
Given this, Tugna said, the next joint congressional oversight committee (JCOC) hearing on the automated election system (AES) on February 22 would include a discussion on which procurement option is better for future polls: lease the machines first with an option to buy them later, or purchase them immediately.
In the recent JCOC hearing on Thursday, February 1, then-acting Comelec Chairman Christian Robert Lim reported that the Comelec en banc approved on December 18, 2017, the resolution exercising the option to purchase the VCMs.
"Prior to that, we had several consultations not only with the CAC (Comelec Advisory Council) but also with stakeholders. In fact, we have been informing the stakeholders that we have to make a decision soon, as time was running out on us," said Lim, who retired from the Comelec on Friday, February 2.
"The contract was signed on January 12, 2018," Lim added.
CAC head and Department of Information and Communications Technology OIC Eliseo Rio Jr told the JCOC that, in their recommendations, the Comelec can exercise the option to buy the machines, as well as refurbish some of the old ones used in past elections.
The option to purchase the VCMs was among those considered by the CAC in July 2017 when it drafred proposals to the Comelec for the 2019 elections.
Namfrel: Lease VCMs instead
For their part, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) told Rappler that if the choice was to reuse VCMs in the next election, "We would prefer a lease agreement."
Namfrel secretary-general Eric Jude Alvia said they found out about the signing of the contract to buy the vote-counting machines "only during the JCOC hearing last Thursday."
"Namfrel submitted through CAC its recommendation that if VCMs would be chosen, lease it and not exercise option to purchase," said Alvia.
Namfrel also suggested that the Comelec explore other technologies to automate the election process.
Venezuela-based Smartmatic provided the vote-counting machines in the last 3 automated elections in the Philippines. It has since been hounded by controversy over the conduct of the said polls. – Rappler.com