Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Jose Melo on Monday said that hopes are dimming for the automated polls in 2010.
In an interview on ANC'S "News at 8," Melo said the House of Representatives still wants to amend the poll automation law before it gives the P11-billion budget to the COMELEC.
"So everything is tied up to that law. It is practically a hijack of the automation law. Anybody there can dilly-dally and no law is passed within the period," he added.
Melo noted that if the COMELEC does not have the budget by April 1, then the 2010 elections can no longer be automated.
This comes as there is just less than a week before Congress goes into a month-long break.
No to hybrid
Meanwhile, Melo also shunned calls to conduct the so-called "hybrid" elections where some parts will be automated and others will be manual.
Melo thinks the "hybrid" elections will be costly and will not do much to fast track the electoral process and keep it fraud-free.
This was echoed by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
In an interview with ANC on Monday, PPCRV Chairman Henrietta de Villa said that voting precincts will be messy if there are hybrid elections, as one voting precinct will have two types of election going on.
The proposed hybrid polls entail that the national elections will be automated where voting for candidates for president, vice-president, senators and party-list representatives. Local elections involving congressmen down to the councilors will be done manually.
De Villa added that the hybrid voting system will be confusing to pollwatchers and even to voters.
Earlier, the PPCRV and National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) released a statement calling for the full automation of the 2010 elections.
De Villa said the statement not only called on Congress to push through with the poll automation but also called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to "push a bit more" given the "vast powers for her office."
The statement also called on the public to be involved by writing and sending e-mails to congressmen.
According to de Villa, she "thought it would be better if it (the statement) were more inclusive and that the Congress people would not think that they were just zeroing in on them, but it must be a concerted effort of everyone, of the entire country to get the automation done."
She also said that she would like to be fair-minded about the members of Congress who oppose the automation of polls or want the hybrid style of elections.
She thinks that maybe it's because of "that fear that they dont know how to do it, but then the thing is they are leaders of the land and they should have already updated themselves regarding technology."
No more mistakes
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Joseph "Chiz" Escudero on Monday asked the COMELEC to explain how it will undertake the automation of the 2010 elections.
Escudero told reporters that the COMELEC should clearly explain to the public how it plans to spend the P11.3 billion it is asking from Congress for the automation of polls.
"We cannot afford to make another mistake like Megapacific," said the opposition senator, who chairs the joint congressional oversight committee on automated election system.
He was referring to the P1.3 billion counting machine contract with Mega Pacific Corp., which was later on nullified by the Supreme Court.
Escudero also asked the Comelec if it has fulfilled the requirements of the law for the automation of elections.
One requirement is to launch pilot areas in at least two urbanized areas in the country and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
“We can’t be stampeded into passing this budget without the Comelec answering these questions," Escudero said.