Comelec urged to study options on use of VCMs

MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is urged to thoroughly study its options on what they intend to do with the more than 90,000 vote counting machines (VCMs) that were utilized in the May 2016 polls.

In Resolution No. ?2017-002? issued by Comelec Advisory Council (CAC), it suggested that the poll body should carefully scrutinize all the choices including the option-to-purchase (OTP) clause provided in its lease contract with Smartmatic International.?

"The goal is to avoid future problems, as well as the problems encountered or observed during the procurement of refurbishment services for the procured Precincts Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in 2013 for the 2016 elections," the Council said.

The poll body has 81,896 PCOS machines it acquired from the international company prior to the 2013 polls for PHP1.8 billion. The purchase was made after exercising the OTP clause in their 2010 lease contract.

But, the PCOS machines were not used in the last polls due to the lack of time to refurbish them.

Instead, the Comelec has leased 97,517 VCMs also from the same service provider, with another OTP clause provided for in the contract.

?The CAC noted that the poll body must consider the cost of keeping, warehousing, refurbishing and other incidental costs when re-using the machines for the 2019 and 2022 elections and that it must not outweigh the costs and benefits of exercising the OTP.

Likewise, they cited the problems and deficiencies observed in the 2016 elections, such as the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) implementation, which according to them must be addressed before considering the OTP.

The Council added that the Commission must consider the disposal of the machines when no longer serviceable or when the purchase and re-use will be more costly and disadvantageous to the government as well as to avoid unnecessary warehousing and maintenance costs.

Earlier, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that exercising the OTP for the leased VCMs is one of the options they are looking into for the country's next automated polls.

The CAC is tasked to recommend the most appropriate, secure, applicable, and cost-effective technology to be used by the Comelec as its automated election system, under the Poll Automation Law.

Source: Philippine News Agency