Comelec chief worried over delay in production of poll machines

by Timi Nubla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 10 2009 11:13 PM | Updated as of Nov 11 2009 07:13 AM

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose Melo admitted on Tuesday he is having sleepless nights worrying about the preparations for the upcoming poll automations in May 2010.

The process has already been delayed by a month due to a case filed at the Supreme Court that had attempted but failed to block the awarding of the automation contract to joint venture Smartmatic- Total Information Management (TIM). After which, the manufacture of the machines was transferred from Taiwan to Shanghai in Chinadue to successive typhoons that hit Taiwan and reportedly delayed production.

"Until this thing is through, no one can really relax eh," said Melo.

80,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines are needed for the coming May elections. The first batch must be delivered by end-December while the balance must be in by the end of January. This would give Comelec ample time to have them tested, configured and have the source code installed.

Because of this, Comelec said it is sending 2 representatives to Shanghai in December to inspect and make sure the machines will be delivered on schedule.

While waiting for the delivery, Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM are already preparing for the training of thousands of IT professionals to participate in the automated elections as well as reviewing new voting mechanisms.

These include requiring voters to dip their whole finger in indelible ink instead of just the tip to discourage flying voters and setting up holding areas in voting precincts where voters would first be briefed on the new automated process before they can vote.

"The last area where the voters can be given information regarding the voting procedures meaning to say: do not overvote, this is how you shade, you should think of you candidates muna,” Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal

Melo however remains optimistic and said that the worst that can happen is that there would be partial automation. In any case, the poll chief said, elections would push through on May 2010. by Timi Nubla, ABS-CBN News