MANILA - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved an extra budget of 11.3 billion pesos ($235 million) on Monday to finance the deployment of voting machines for next year's general elections.
About 40 million Filipinos will vote for a new set of leaders including the president, vice president, 260 legislators and about 17,000 local government officials in May of 2010.
It will be the first time that voting machines will be used in an election, and the results will be known within days of voting instead of the month or so currently. Manual counting has also been blamed for chronic poll fraud.
"We see no more obstacles to the implementation of a fully automated election system that will ensure honest, efficient and credible polls next year," said Gabriel Claudio, the president's political adviser.
"With full automation, we look forward to the holding of 2010 elections as a landmark democratic exercise that will bring about greater political stability and harmony."
Arroyo herself was hounded by allegations of election fraud in 2004 when she won by a slim margin of about 1 million votes over the late action movie hero Fernando Poe Jr., an ally of her predecessor Joseph Estrada.
She faced and survived four successive impeachment motions and two failed attempts by rogue soldiers to unseat her due to charges of corruption, rights violations and cheating in the 2004 elections.
The process to decide who will supply the machines will begin on Friday, elections officials said. Six companies, including several foreign groups, have expressed an interest.
Ronaldo Puno, the interior and local government secretary and Arroyo's election strategist, said the automation of elections would mean that candidates would have to file nominations earlier than usual.
"They will have to file their certificates of candidacy by late November this year to allow the elections commission to print their names in the ballots," Puno said. Previously, nominations were due only four months before the elections.