Comelec: Mix of old, new tech for 2016 polls

By Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2014 03:42 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2014 11:42 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections will be reusing the existing Optical Mark Reader technology as the primary voting system for the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Chairman Sixto Brillantes made the announcement to the media Tuesday afternoon following an en banc meeting of the Commission.

Brillantes said that the en banc has decided to adopt in general the recommendation of the Comelec Advisory Council to reuse the existing technology, "provided that the existing machines be subjected to rigorous quality assurance and testing processes" and "that the security features and minimum system capabilities required by law will be fully implemented."

Brillantes said that the Commission is looking to purchase or lease between 10,000 to 41,000 additional precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to augment the existing 80,000 purchased machines.

The number, he said, will depend on their decision to decrease number of voters per precinct from 1,000 voters to between 600 to 800 voters.

"If 600 voters per precinct we may need about 41,000 more. If 800 naman, mas konti between 10 to 15,000 (new PCOS machines)," he said.

The Commission is set to start public bidding process soon for the additional machines.

Brillantes said that they will be amending the terms of reference to include that the winning bidder be also responsible in refurbishing or upgrading the existing machines.

This is on the condition that the old and new machines should both be interoperable with the Consolidated Canvassing System or CCS.

The chairman said that they initially wanted to have all new machines for the elections, but were constrained with budget concerns as Congress only approved P10.3 Billion for the elections, instead of their requested P18 Billion.

SECONDARY TECHNOLOGY

Aside from the OMR technology, the Commission is also set to pilot a secondary technology, the Direct Electronic Recording or DRE technology which uses touch screen.

Brillantes said this is in preparation for a more advanced voting system for future elections. The Commission is planning to test pilot this technology in a number of precincts in highly urbanized areas, particularly in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

"Recommendation ng CAC is to use one large voting center of 20,000 voters. If 1,000 voters per precinct that would be 20 precincts, tigsasampu, mga 200 (DRE machines needed)," Brillantes said, adding that the technology is faster, more efficient and would significantly decrease the waiting time for voters.

However, this technology is very expensive, with an estimated price tag of 55 billion pesos for the 800,000 DRE machines needed for the 80,000 precincts all over the country.

The chairman explained that to eliminate the lines, at least 10 DRE machines are needed per precinct.

"Ang sabi sa amin mag-pilot testing na kayo ngayon para matest na natin ang DRE in an actual election. Ang expectation kasi baka sa susunod na election hindi na ganun kamahal yung technology," Brillantes addded.

The COMELEC added that they will be partially using a Biometric Voter Identification Apparatus in the next elections, which can immediately identify a registered voter by using only his/her thumbprint, solving the problem on long waiting times as well as weed out flying voters.

However, since the COMELEC only has 1 billion budget for this, they are looking into using a part of the Commission's savings to have at least 50 percent implementation during the Presidential Elections.

Adding to these technologies, the COMELEC will also be looking into internet voting for OFW's. Brillantes said that they are now in the process of finalizing their preparations.

"Basta nakalatag na lahat, the entire groundwork of the elections will be done by January of next year. We retire february 2. Yung papasok na bagong chair and two commissioners will only be concerned in the implementation stage," he said.