MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec), one of the country’s three constitutional commissions whose main role is to enforce all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections, initiatives, referendums, and recall elections, is planning ahead of the much-anticipated 2016 local and national elections.
With this, the poll body is looking to acquire new optical scan voting machines, numbering to more than 121,000 units if Congress and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would approve its proposed budget of P38 billion for the whole automated polls, including Php 11 billion for the acquisition of the new machines.
“We have already submitted our budget. We will wait until the budget is approved… We will make the adjustment if we do not get the whole budget,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told the Philippines News Agency in an interview.
He explained that the total 121,800 units of voting machines are based on the ratio of one machine per 600 voters.
The Comelec official said it is important to increase the number of machines since the number of voters is also increasing every election. There were more than 52 million registered voters in the May 2013 polls.
“It is important to increase the number of machines since the voters are also increasing. If there are many machines, the ratio will change,” he stressed.
Jimenez noted that if Congress will not approve the Comelec’s proposed budget, they will have to use the new machines together with the old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines which were utilized in the 2010 and 2013 polls.
The Comelec is expecting to register some three million new voters during the conduct of the nationwide registration which started last May 6 and will run until Oct. 31, 2015.
The more than 72,000 PCOS machines used in the past two elections are in the Comelec storage area in Laguna.
Comelec Chairman Brillantes has said they are looking to sell the machines to other countries that are planning to automate their elections. These are Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
The PCOS machines were purchased for P1.8 billion from Smartmatic International, which was the automated elections system (AES) service provider in the last two consecutive elections.
Meanwhile, the poll body is waiting for Congress to approve and schedule the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“We have not prepared anything yet. Until the legislative side is done, we cannot set the plebiscite,” Jimenez said.
He assured, however, that the poll body is ready anytime Congress announces the date of the plebiscite.
“We are ready and prepared since we have activities lined up for the next two years. We have to maintain a little bit of flexibility if it (Congress) will announce the schedule of the plebiscite,” Jimenez said.
He added, “It’s still premature until they have come up with the law stating when the plebiscite will be held. It would be difficult to actually move things, to commit resources, so we are just waiting.”
The proposed BBL will establish the autonomous political entity named Bangsamoro that will replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The Comelec earlier said that they see no problem in holding a plebiscite as they are also preparing for the 2016 polls.
With this, the Commission en banc has created the Sub-Committee on the Bangsamoro Plebiscite to be chaired by Commissioner Al Parreno and co-chaired by Commissioner Luie Guia.
Aside from the sub-committee, a Special Task Force has also been created by the Comelec to oversee, supervise, and control the preparations for the conduct of the plebiscite, Jimenez said.