MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and automated election system provider Smartmatic should expect more hard questions from Sen. Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III as preparations continue for the 2013 polls.
Pimentel, chair of the Senate's committee on electoral reforms, on Thursday called poll officials to a hearing and demonstration of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
"It is my job to ask the hard questions," Pimentel told reporters. "It is my job to doubt because we want as much as possible a perfect system."
During Thursday's hearing, a mock election was held where 17 sample ballots were inserted to the PCOS machine. The committee's staff then conducted a manual audit to check if the machine's tally of votes was accurate.
The results were 100 percent accurate, a staff of the committee said.
Pimentel appeared impressed, but said he will have more questions to ask officials during future hearings.
'PCOS hard to manipulate'
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, on the other hand, said he believes the PCOS system is hard to manipulate.
"Kumbinsido ako na mahirap magdaya," he said. "Pero hindi mo maiaalis ang mga haka-haka."
Enrile, who canvassed the results for president and vice president in the 2010 automated polls, said the country saved resources by purchasing the PCOS machines instead of looking for another supplier.
Smartmatic's President for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores said nothing much will change in the PCOS machines for the 2013 elections, but that the glitches encountered in 2010 have been addressed.
He added that the consolidating and canvassing system (CCS) has been improved to allow the transmission of results from the city to the provincial level even if not all precincts have transmitted their results, as long as the numbers from the remaining precincts are not enough to affect the election's outcome.
He said this would speed up the process.
"The threshold is now variable," Flores said, referring to the CCS.
Pimentel also asked if the Comelec will implement the automated election law's provision requiring a receipt for voters so they can verify if the machine counted their votes correctly.
Flores said PCOS machines can produce receipts, but that the Comelec opted not to use that function.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said it's not necessary because manual elections in the past did not require it.
Comelec officials have also said in the past that receipts for voters may be used for vote-buying.
"I would rather that we amend the law and not require it anymore to be there," Brillantes said.
Brillantes said among the Comelec's plans for the 2013 elections is to have different firms take charge of various election-related operations like warehouse maintenance, configuration, technical support, and ballot box delivery, among others.
"We're bidding it out," he said.