Comelec: No manual polls despite failed PCOS bidding

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) quelled fears that the Philippines will revert to manual elections in 2016 after the bidding for additional voting machines failed.

“I think some congressmen have been expressing fears that because of the failed bidding, there is a possibility that we will revert to manual elections. That's not gonna happen,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told Rappler on Thursday, March 5.

Jimenez assured the public that the Philippines will hold automated elections in 2016 because the Comelec already has 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. 

Jimenez said the failed bidding “only refers to the 23,000 machines” that the Comelec wants to lease to augment the 82,000 PCOS machines.

He said that in the “absolute worst-case scenario” that the Comelec fails to lease the additional voting machines, the poll body still has 82,000 PCOS machines that will be refurbished for 2016.

The Comelec used these PCOS machines from Smartmatic TIM, a Venezuelan firm, during the Philippines' first two automated elections in 2010 and 2013.

He said the Comelec can “arrange” the PCOS machines “so that they will be adequate” for the 54 million expected voters in 2016.

'Major crisis'

In the 2013 elections, he said, the Comelec expected 52 million voters to use the 82,000 PCOS machines.

The recent issue over voting machines erupted on February 25, after the Comelec bids and awards committee disqualified the two lone bidders, Smartmatic TIM and Indra Sistemas.

The committee said Smartmatic TIM left a number of blank spaces in the summary of prices. Indra Sistemas, on the other hand, went beyond the approved budget, reports said.

The failed bidding alarmed lawmakers, such as Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga. He said a return to manual elections “might be forthcoming” because of the failed bidding, GMA News reported

Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said this situation “has had a domino effect” on the Comelec's schedule, Philippine Daily Inquirer said. “This is certainly becoming a major crisis,” he said 

Jimenez, however, said there's a “very, very slim chance” that the Comelec can't lease the additional 23,000 voting machines.

“Remember, under the law, if you have one failed bidding, you have a second bidding. And after you have a second bidding, if it's still failing, you still have the option to negotiate the contract,” Jimenez said.

Pointing out that this is a major deal, Jimenez said, “I don't think that there will be a shortage of companies who will want to get that contract.” –