PNoy backs use of PCOS machines for 2013 polls

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 11 2012 08:20 AM | Updated as of Jun 11 2012 06:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines - As far as President Aquino is concerned, there should be no more debates over the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the May 2013 senatorial elections, considering their proven credibility particularly in the 2010 presidential elections which he overwhelmingly won.

Aquino told journalists over coffee that the country is expected to benefit much in terms of credible poll results if it maximizes the use of PCOS machines.

He has urged the Commission on Elections, the independent constitutional body tasked to supervise the conduct of elections, to ensure that the country would not revert to the old manual system for the 2013 senatorial polls.

At the same time, the Chief Executive expressed serious concern over the failure of the Supreme Court to act expeditiously on petitions against the Comelec’s decision to purchase some 80,000 PCOS machines for the 2013 polls.

“Of course it is alarming,” Aquino said, warning that it would be a tragedy to return to the manual counting system, which is vulnerable to manipulation by corrupt politicians and their supporters.

The SC has yet to act on petitions contesting the P1.8-billion deal with the Netherlands-based Smartmatic-Total Information Management’s (TIM).

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes earlier complained about the SC’s alleged foot-dragging on the matter before the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms headed by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr..

“We will be pressed for time. This is the reason why we’re asking the SC to resolve it immediately. But if it takes time for the SC to resolve the issue until July to August (2012), then we will have no more time anymore for automated polls,” he said.

Last April, the SC issued a temporary restraining order on the P1.8-billion deal.

Lawmakers, led by Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., earlier rallied behind the Comelec’s move to “exercise the option to purchase” the PCOS machines that the poll body rented from Smartmatic-TIM in 2010.

The congressmen pointed out that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) – the quasi-judicial body that resolves poll disputes among representatives – has already dismissed claims of irregularities in the 2010 elections.

The Solidarity for Sovereignty and another group, led by Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, sought the issuance of a TRO on the P1.8-billion PCOS machines purchase, saying the Comelec’s move was “unlawful.”