11 companies expected to bid for election machines in 2025 midterm polls

Victoria Tulad, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2023 06:01 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at 11 companies to possibly vie for the contract to supply 110,000 Automated Counting Machines (ACMs) that will replace Vote Counting Machine (VCMs) for the 2025 midterm elections.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia said four companies have already submitted their proposed contract price—Dominion Voting Systems, Miru Systems, Pivot International, and Smartmatic.

Smartmatic has been the service provider since the Philippines shifted to automated elections in 2010, but has been heavily criticized for various issues such as machines breaking down during election day.

In June, a petition was filed before Comelec seeking to disqualify Smartmatic from the bidding. 

Petitioners were former Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr., former Comelec Commissioner and National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) President Augusto Lagman, Franklin Ysaac, and Leonardo Odoño.

Garcia said their Law Department has already filed a comment which will be deliberated on by the en banc.

He explained that at this point, there is no basis to disqualify Smartmatic.

“Wala po kasi tayong formal na diskwalipikasyon sa kanila, at the same time sa batas po kasi, sa Republic Act 9184, wala pa pong sufficient ground para sila ay ma-disqualify at this point, unless may mag-file ng disqualification,” Garcia said. “So ang sa amin po, we will give everybody an opportunity na makapag-participate.”

Comelec is looking at several upgrades to the ACMs such as a a 13-inch screen, 200 millimeter per second scanning from the previous 70 millimeter per second, issuance of a receipt, and transmission to different servers including that of election watchdogs and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

The contract price for the lease of ACM is P19.8 billion. Garcia said they are not going to buy the machines because this will entail more costs such as in warehousing.

He also defended their wishlist.

“Kung bababaan natin yung standard, sasabihin sa’tin ng mga mamamayan magli-lease ka na rin lang, bakit mumurahing klaseng cellphone ‘yung ni-lease mo? Hindi po ba dapat magwi-wish ka na rin lang, ‘yung magandang klase ng teknolohiya upang kahit paano masiguro natin ang transparency at auditability ng sistema,” Garcia pointed out.

The chair of the poll body assured everyone of a fair selection.

One way of making it accessible to more providers is by asking the Government Procurement and Policy Board to adjust the requirement where bidding companies must have completed a similar project worth 50 percent of what they are bidding for. Garcia asked the agency to lower this to 30 percent.

Requirements should be submitted by end of October 2023 and the contract award is expected to be given by January 2024. 

Disqualification cases

Comelec will start filing disqualification cases next week against erring candidates primarily because of premature campaigning in relation to the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

Garcia wants to prioritize this rather than the filing of election offenses in order to prevent candidates from running on October 30 as election offenses may be filed within three years.

Almost 1,000 show cause orders have been sent in the past days and some have already replied, but were not able to convince the poll body with their explanation.

An additional 700 will be filed in the next two days.

Comelec is adamant in going against violators on its own, or motu propio, to show that it is serious in implementing the law.

Garcia also committed to resolve nuisance cases up to the en banc level prior to election day so that these people will be disqualified.

He wants nuisance cases to be criminalized to prevent the same people from running again, but this is up to Congress.

Garica meanwhile said that teachers may also face an election offense if they do not report on election day with the goal of disrupting elections. 

This warrants imprisonment of one to six years.

No automation of 2025 BSKE

As for the next BSKE in 2025, Garcia said it will be hard to automate this given that they do not have a preparatory fund for that in the 2024 national budget.

“Kung gusto talaga ng Congress automated 2025 BSKE, kakailanganin po na meron din kaming preparatory budget para sa preparatory sa BSKE,” Garcia quipped.

Another reason is the difficulty of conducting two automated elections in one year.

“Talagang napakahirap isagawa ang automated BSKE sa mismong taon na meron tayong automated National and Local Elections (NLE). Pag automated BSKE, kailangan gawin ang COC filing nang mas maaga, katulad ng May 2025. Ibig sabihin, makakasabay ng NLE yun,” Garcia explained.

Confidential funds for Comelec?

 As for confidential funds, Garcia insisted that they do not need it.

“Wala akong intensyong humingi. Maraming Marites sa Comelec. We can always tap AFP, PNP. Kapag election period kami ay may power to deputize any government agency,” Garcia said. 

“With or without that fund, we will implement the law in accordance with the best interest of the nation.”


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