MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said it would no longer use in the 2025 elections the 98,000 vote counting machines (VCMs) deployed during the previous polls.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said that the VCMs might no longer be effective, especially since the commission was eyeing full automation and new technology for the next national elections.
“Ang Commission on Elections po ay nagdesisyon na sana nga maisantabi na natin iyong 98,000 na vote counting machines sapagkat ito po ay 3 beses na nating nagagamit,” Garcia said in a televised briefing.
(The Commission on Elections decided to set aside the 98,000 VCMs because these have been used thrice.)
The "full automation" that Comelec targets will use a machine with "new technology," he said.
"Ang ibig sabihin po, baka naman mayroong makina na pupuwede, iyong feature na pupuwedeng hybrid, na mayroong mabibilang mo automatically, at the same time, makikita mo iyong mga balota upang mabilang manually,” Garcia said.
(This means that perhaps there is a machine with a hybrid feature, where you could automatically count the votes and you can see the ballot so that it could be counted manually.)
“Kasi, kapag kasi ginawa nating manual at saka kung automated, sa atin palagay ay baka po abutin nang kinabukasan ang pagbilang ng mga boto ay kaawa-awa po ang mga guro natin,” he added.
(If we make it both manual and automated, we think that the counting of votes could take until the next day. Our teachers would suffer.)
Comelec Spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco added that the poll body aimed to have electronic images of ballots shown in the VCMs, which would help prevent fraud.
"Ito pa rin ay paper-based, fully automated, pero maglalagay kami ng features na kung pwede... makita natin during the counting process or immediately after the counting process 'yung mga balota na binilang," he said in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News.
"Sort of nakikita natin hindi lang doon sa resibo kung hindi 'yung actual na balota na mismo," he added.
(This would also be paper-based, fully automated, but we will include a feature where if possible, we can the counting process or immediately after the counting process, the ballots that were counted. We will sort of see not just the receipt, but the ballot itself. )
The machine will also save a ballot image, and it would have the capability to review the ballot on site, he said. At present, the actual ballots are sealed after they go through the counting machines, preventing election officers from reviewing it after.
"'Yung ballots naka-seal 'yan. Pine-preserve natin 'yung balota... Instead of us manually getting each and every ballot na matagal, perhaps we could view, makita natin electronically sa display 'yung mga nai-scan na image," he said.
(The ballots are sealed and preserved. Instead of us manually getting each and every ballot which would take time, perhaps we could view electronically the display of the scanned images.)
"Hybrid siya in a sense na nakita natin 'yung balota pero hindi yung hybrid na... isa-isa natin bibilangin yung balota tapos i-eencode natin 'yung resulta at ita-transmit."
(It's hybrid in a sense that we can see the ballot, but not hybrid in the sense that we will count the ballots one by one one, then encode and transmit the result.)
This can be used during election protests, he added, since they can view the ballot image and the physical copies of preserved ballots.
The Comelec is crafting the terms of reference for this, said its spokesperson.
It will still be up to Congress and the Executive Branch, however, to allocate budget for the purchase or rent of VCMs.
The Comelec chairman told ABS-CBN News that their budget for the next elections with this new setup could be around P48 billion.
"Hindi lang po machines. Kasama [na dito ang] transmission, ballots, teachers, etcetera," Garcia said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
(Not just machines. This will include transmission, ballots, teachers, et cetera.)