Comelec rejects local providers

James Jimenez

THE Commission on Elections is not keen on tapping local technology providers for automated elections for now as none has the required experience.

Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said for the past nine years they have found that none of the local suppliers have adequate experience in providing election technology.

“The law says they (local suppliers) should have been used in previous political exercise. The problem that we have encountered in the past nine years is that the local suppliers do not have the required experience,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has already advised the Comelec to drop Smartmatic -- the Venezuela-based technology provider in the automated elections  -- and pick a replacement that is “free from fraud.”

Poll watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections said Duterte’s pronouncement has opened an opportunity for the Comelec to look for local technology providers.

Jimenez earlier said the Automated Election System law states that the automated election system procured by the Comelec “must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.”

“The law does not prevent the local suppliers, but to limit the options of the nation to local supplier might not be the best or legal solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jimenez said the budget for the conduct of the 2022 presidential polls will have to increase by 50% if the Comelec will purchase brand new Vote Counting Machines.

He made the pronouncement in the wake of Duterte’s order for the poll body to stop using the Smartmatic-manufactured Vote Counting Machines for the conduct of the polls and look for another which is “free from fraud.”

“Definitely, we will need a bigger budget if we are going to buy brand new. Kaya medyo mababa (ang cost) itong 2019, we have purchased ‘yung mga nagamit nating VCMs (na gawa ng Smartmatic) noong 2016. Kung bibili ka ng brand new, balik ka sa original cost. Ang jump sa cost (in conducting election), mga 50%. Baka nga hindi lang ganun,” he said.

“As it is, we have 95,000 VCMs. 85,000 ang nagamit tapos 10,000 ang back up. Pero 1,000 voters per VCM lang (ratio) nun. You need to increase that number for 2022 (Presidential elections). Kung hindi, aabot ka ng 1,500 voter per VCM,” the spokesman added.

At least 961 VCMs malfunctioned and 1,665 SD cards were corrupted on election day last May 13 despite passing prior tests. The Comelec was able to replace these, but not immediately, resulting in long lines in voting centers.