P7 B needed for new PCOS machines

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 24 2014 09:18 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2014 05:18 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may have to shell out almost P7 billion to purchase the new precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the 2016 polls.

Comelec said 6,100 additional PCOS amounting to P6.91 billion would be needed if the poll body finally decides to use the same technology for the next national elections.

According to Comelec, additional PCOS machines are needed considering the expected four million increase in the number of registered voters in 2016.

With 1,000 voters per clustered precinct per PCOS machine, the Comelec said they would need about 86,100 PCOS units for 56 million registered voters in 2016.

The Comelec purchased about 80,000 PCOS units from Smartmatic International for the use of 52 million registered voters in the last 2013 midterm polls.

“Mixing old units with the new ones, that would entail the least cost,” Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino pointed out.

At this time, the Comelec is yet to decide on the technology to be used in the 2016 elections.

Aside from PCOS, the Comelec is also considering the use of the touch screen system called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE).

The use of 588,000 DRE is estimated to cost the Comelec some P60.7 billion.

While buying additional PCOS costs less than DRE, the Comelec said it may also pose problems in terms of election administration.

“If new machines will come from a different provider, there might be a problem on systems integration,” said the Comelec in its 2016 Automated Election System (AES) Budgetary Requirements report to Congress.

Comelec said voters’ education will also be more complicated since there will be two different machines that will be used by voters come Election Day.

Training and instruction manuals for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), the Comelec said, will also have to be produced in two sets.

The Comelec however said that reusing the PCOS machines would mean the voters as well as the BEI members are already familiar with the system.

Preparation for the 2016 polls, such as laboratory tests for the machines can also start early, thus the software certification process will be much easier.

The Comelec will decide on what technology would be used for the 2016 elections depending on the recommendation of the Comelec Advisory Council.