Budget for 2010 poll automation allocated; Congress vows to fast track its passage

by Carmela Fonbuena , abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Jan 13 2009 06:45 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2009 11:37 PM

Budget for 2010 poll automation allocated; Congress vows to fast track its passage 1Commission on Elections chair Jose Melo on Tuesday said he is very happy that a bill allotting P11.3 billion for the automation of the 2010 elections has been filed in Congress. House Bill 5715 was filed in the House of Representatives on Monday by appropriation chair Quirino Rep. Junie Cua.
 
“It’s very good. We can start the ball rolling already,” Melo said. He assured that the morale in Comelec is “very very high.”
 
While Comelec could do with a bigger budget, Melo said the polling body still has savings to augment the funding provided. Melo also wanted to use biometrics—an electronic security scheme for voter registration—but he said the P1 billion funding was not provided.
 
Since last year, Melo had been lobbying for the early approval of the budget for the 2010 elections to give them ample time to bid the automation project and to prepare for the elections. Although he said the Comelec could adjust its timeline, Melo’s first deadline for the approval of the budget was February 2009.
 
House Speaker Prospero Nograles on Tuesday said in a statement that the chamber will fast track the approval of the supplemental budget. He said the bill could pass the lower House within days from resumption of session on January 19.
 
“The poll automation will ensure an informed citizenry on their right of suffrage and the conduct of free, orderly, honest and credible elections,” Nograles said.
 
No public funds can be spent without the appropriations originating from the House of Representatives. But the congressmen had been waiting for Malacañang to transmit to them Comelec’s request for funding. After sitting on the supplemental budget for months, Malacanang on Friday finally submitted to Congress the supplemental budget of P11.3 million.
 
The Comelec Advisory Council—the group tasked to be on top of the technical side of the automation—had a closed-door meeting last week to discuss the “terms of reference” for the 2010 automated polls. Melo said the group will meet again on Friday to finalize it.
 
The terms of reference detail the requirements for the bidding of the automation project.