Comelec suspends 2nd bidding for DRE machines lease

By Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2015 05:54 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2015 01:54 AM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections has suspended the second round of bidding for the lease of 410 units of Direct Recording Electronic machines for the 2016 elections. This, following concerns whether the use of such voting technology would work well in the Philippines.

The Commission is initially looking to test the DRE technology in the upcoming 2016 polls in Pateros, for the possibility of much wider use in the 2019 elections.

However, a number of technical and user concerns caused the Commission to temporarily halt the bidding process until the Comelec Advisory Council finishes studying the matter.

Comelec spokesman Atty. James Jimenez mentioned instances in other countries where DRE machines experienced major technical glitches during the elections.

"Have those issues been resolved? Sabi ng ibang bansa, oo, pero we want more assurance," Jimenez said.

He said DRE machines have already been used in the 2008 ARMM elections, but though the problems experienced were not technical in nature, users had a hard time with the touchscreen technology.

Unlike the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines where the voter would simply feed manually-filled up ballots into the machines for transmission, a voter using a DRE machine would be using a touchscreen to cast votes.

Jimenez said a voter would need a minimum of fifteen minutes in front of the machine to finish voting. This would mean more machines per precinct just to speed up the voting process.

"Sa PCOS ang contact ng botante sa makina less than ten seconds, pero sa DRE bawat isang botante boboto doon mismo, so ang time mo bawat machine lolobo," Jimenez said.

"The cost issue is not that big, however, definitely if you scale that up napakamahal nyan kasi you are not looking at one machine per precinct hindi katulad ng PCOS ang tinitignan mo dyan at least four machines per precinct."

The suspension of the bidding for DRE machines comes as the Bids and Awards Committee is now in the final stages for the bidding for the additional 23,000 new PCOS machines.

The remaining lone qualified bidder Smartmatic on Monday started with the end to end demonstration of the final technical specifications of their new PCOS machines, which would give Comelec a chance to scrutiny every bit of the machine and election management system.

The Venezuelan company was able to proceed with their bid after Comelec reversed the disqualification of Smartmatic last week.

Smartmatic and rival Indra Sistemas were earlier disqualified by the Bids and Awards Committee last week for posting 'non-responsive bids' during the presentation of their financial proposals.

Jimenez told the media that if all goes well, the Commission would be able to award their contract by the first week of May this year.

However, because of the TRO of the controversial extended warranty agreement between the Comelec and Smartmatic for the refurbishment of the more than 80 thousand used PCOS machines, the Comelec is now trying to explore some options to make sure that the elections pushes through.

Among the options is to start the bid again for the more than 100,000 machines.

Jimenez said they would also be hearing the proposal of former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, who is set to present to the en banc on Friday his own system for a mixed manual and automated type of elections. Despite this, however, Jimenez said reverting to manual elections could still be an option.