By Leslie Ann Aquino | Manila Bulletin
It is the hope of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that the May 2022 polls will be the last time that the country will use the old vote counting machines (VCMs).
“Hopefully, this will be the last time we will use the VCMs because it is a nine-year old machine by 2025, although we refurbished it,” Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said during the walk through activity at the Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
“Maybe after 2022 there will be a new technology for the elections, probably there is already internet voting or direct recording electronic (DRE). Let’s see,” he added.
Casquejo said the VCMs can still be used for special elections or plebiscite.
“We can automate smaller elections in cities or municipalities because we own this system,” he said.
During the 2016 polls, the Comelec opted to lease more than 97,000 VCMs from Smartmatic due to lack of time to refurbish the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.
The Comelec has since purchased and used the VCMs in the May 2019 polls and again in the May 2022 elections.
Meanwhile, Casquejo said Smartmatic must finish the refurbishment of the VCMs until November.
“There was a bidding for refurbishment, and the lowest calculated responsive bid was Smartmatic,” he said.
“P600 million for refurbishment or P7,000 per machine. The cost of new machine is P12 billion. But we got less than that. We just refurbished it. Our machine will be good as new,” added Casquejo.
The Comelec is also preparing for the 2nd round of public bidding for the precinct-based Optical Mark Reader (OMR) or Optical Scan (OPSCAN) System or Voting/Counting Machine (VCM) project.
The Comelec – Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) earlier declared a failed bidding for the lease of 10,000 additional voting machines after no company submitted bidding documents.
“We will proceed with the 2nd bidding and try to increase approved budget for the contract (ABC),” said Casquejo.
“Supposedly, by November, everything is completed because manufacturing the machines will take time,” he added.