MANILA, Philippines -- In an almost 3-hectare warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, more than 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines are currently stored.
On Thursday, a number of them were fetched for deployment to the provinces.
A total of 845 machines were carefully loaded onto the truck of a forwarding company, which will take them to Palawan province.
This is the next batch of PCOS machines to be dispatched in bulk after two machines were deployed to the Kalayaan Islands in March.
With the machines are 62 back-up units, 266 batteries, 31 canvassing computers and back-ups, and 23 satellite transmission units.
“We have a monitoring system, a tracking system using bar codes until the municipal level,” said Gene Gregorio, Smartmatic-TIM spokesperson.
When they arrive in Palawan, the machines will first be stored in a warehouse before they are taken to polling centers 3 to 4 days before election day.
The Commission on Election (Comelec) and Smartmatic-TIM said security is tight in every step of the PCOS machines' deployment.
They added that this is precisely why the exact locations of the machines are not disclosed to the public.
Some election watchdog groups think the process lacks transparency.
“Masyadong maraming sikreto sa deployment… Walang info about the hubs, kung saan sila, for reasons of security which I would agree with. Pero at least, dapat may watchers din doon,” said Lito Averia, IT analyst of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance.
But the Comelec said political parties and the citizen's arm, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) are aware of the deployment schedules.
“May kopya sila ng schedule so they would know,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.
In a text message, Liberal Party campaign manager Butch Abad said they have not been informed about the schedule of deployment of PCOS machines.
Nacionalista spokesman and senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla also said their party has not received any formal notice from the Comelec regarding the delivery of the machines.
"We have not received any formal advice. Based on the ocular at Laguna Smartmatic warehouse, delivery should be ongoing," said Remulla in a text message.
The PPCRV, however, said it is aware of the schedules, and promised to send watchers to guard the machines from the warehouse to the polling centers.
"Yes, we know of PCOS deliveries and we will monitor all the way as it leaves the warehouse until it arrives at the designated precinct and watch (them) till election day," said Atty. Howard Calleja of the PPCRV in a text message.