COMELEC: No automation if Nov mock poll fails

By Aries C. Rufo,

Posted at Mar 11 2009 07:54 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2009 11:02 PM

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will require a 99.9995 percent accuracy rate for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in the May 2010 national polls.

This developed as the poll body imposed a November deadline to prepare for automation--or it goes back to the manual system.

Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer told the 99.9995 accuracy rate was recommended by COMELEC’s advisory committee on automation which was adopted in Tuesday’s en banc meeting.

The poll body also finalized the terms of reference that will guide prospective firms which will bid for the project.

Essentially, COMELEC will lease 80,000 units of PCOS to cover 80,000 clustered precincts. At present, there are 240,000 precincts nationwide. For the automated polls, three precincts will be clustered into one; thus, the 80,000 precincts. One machine is supposed to count only 1,000 ballots.

November testing

Bidding for the project is expected to be conducted soon, and the winning supplier is required to come up with the machines by November for testing. A mock election will be held to test the accuracy and efficiency of the machines.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that if plans go awry by November, the COMELEC will be forced to resort to manual system.  “By that time, if the machines fail, it will be too late to conduct another bidding,” he pointed out.

Explaining the decision to lease the machines, Sarmiento pointed out that technology is fast changing. “By the next elections, the system to be used for the 2010 polls may be outdated.”

The COMELEC is on the verge of making history with the Philippines' first fully automated election. All poll chiefs, post-Marcos era, tried but failed to introduce an automated electoral system nationwide.

The possibility of fully automated elections has prompted the poll watchdog National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) to forego its unofficial quick count operation.