The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ruled out the possibility of conducting Internet voting for the 2016 presidential elections. “Personally, I favor Internet voting, but unfortunately, our laws at present do not allow it,” Comelec commissioner Arthur Lim said Wednesday. According to Lim, there are two pending bills in Congress on Internet voting. However, current preparations for the 2016 polls are already focused on the automation of the elections.
The Philippines said today it had shifted production of voting machines for the 2016 presidential election from China to Taiwan due to fears that Beijing might “sabotage” the vote. Christian Lim, a senior official at the government poll watchdog Commission on Elections (Comelec), said the agency had moved the production site to avoid the risk of China interfering with the May 9, 2016 vote, or deliberately failing to deliver the machines. “We want to emphasise that the move to Taiwan was a product of the contract negotiations because we have received intelligence reports that there may be an attempt to sabotage the elections by China,” he was quoted by television reports as telling a congressional budget hearing.
An election lawyer urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec), on Sunday, to scrap plans of employing Internet voting technology for overseas absentee voting (OAV) in the May 2016 balloting in the absence of clear-cut rules on such a scheme. Laywer Romulo Macalintal said for the May 9 elections in next year, the Comelec should just stick to the existing mode of voting for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) since some provisions of the Overseas Voting Act of 2013 were vague. “Definitely, the election body should wait for clearer provisions of the law allowing Internet voting and its mechanisms,” Macalintal told reporters, citing that under the law, the Comelec has been merely allowed “to explore” Internet-based technology for OAV.
With less than a year left before the 2016 elections, it’s more likely that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will turn to Smartmatic for most voting machine deals. It was the very company that supplied precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the government during the 2010 and 2013 elections. A forum held at the Luneta Hotel on Wednesday (August 12) aimed to address two issues: why the company keeps landing supply deals with Comelec, and whether or not automation is the way to go next year. Smartmatic Asia-Pacific President Cesar Flores said that the reason the company has won practically every bidding to supply vote counting machines is because it has offered the best price. Flores presented data from Smartmatic’s operations in different countries. He pointed out that the sizeable production capacity enables the company to lease or sell the machines at a lower price than most companies. There were questions about alleged failures and glitches in the 2010 and 2013 polls — but Flores said those were mostly untrue, and are marginal.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday declared a failure of the second bidding for the refurbishment of the 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines it owns after the lone bidder was found ineligible for submitting a noncompliant bid. In a resolution, Comelec special bids and awards committee 2 (SBAC 2) declared the joint venture of Dermalog, Avante and Stone of David ineligible. It then declared a failure of bidding for the “supply and delivery of the refurbishment (with systems upgrade) of the existing PCOS machines, its consumables and ballots for the May 9, 2016, national, local and ARMM elections.”
Despite calls to blacklist it from election deals, Venezuelan firm Smartmatic moved closer to bagging all major election contracts for the Philippines’ presidential elections in 2016. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, July 30, said it decided to award to Smartmatic a major contract for the lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines. The contract for these precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines is pegged at P1.7 billion ($37.18 million). Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will soon issue the notice of award to Smartmatic. The lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines is part of the Comelec’s last-ditch effort to ensure automated elections in 2016.
Poll body Chairman Andres D. Bautista told lawmakers during a briefing at the House of Representatives that the Comelec en banc has already denied the pending appeals filed by two rival firms also vying for the P2.5-billion deal for the additional optical mark readers (OMRs). “The Comelec en banc ruled on the MR (motion for reconsideration) on 23,000 new OMRs. This is the green light for us to issue a notice of award to Smartmatic,” Mr. Bautista told members of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. Mr. Bautista had said in a July 14 briefing that the contract was not immediately awarded because of pending motions by rival providers, Indra Sistemas, S.A., and Miru Systems Co.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has approved the awarding to Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) of the contract to lease 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines for the 2016 polls. In Resolution No. 2015-004, the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee -1 (SBAC-1) has recommended the issuance of the “Notice of Award” to the joint venture for its bid offer of more than P1.7 billion. “SBAC-1 resolves to recommend to the head of the procuring entity the issuance of the Notice of Award (to the joint venture) as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid for the lease with option to purchase of election management system and precinct-based OMR or optical scan system,” the committee said. The project has an approved budget of P2.5 billion, but Smartmatic-TIM’s bid offer was only P1.72 billion.
At a voting center in Bacoor, Cavite, it was déjà vu for residents during a public demonstration of the “hybrid” voting system utilizing the precinct automatic tallying system (Patas) organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at the Bacoor National High School Annex in Barangay Tabing Dagat. They were taken back to the time prior to the advent of automated voting in the Philippines. They filled out the ballots by hand, writing in the names of their candidates, and the count was tallied on a blackboard. But some things were new.
The online voters’ registration program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Elections can now be accessed by overseas Filipino workers worldwide. The DFA-Overseas Voting Secretariat said on Thursday that it had opened iRehistro in the Foreign Service Posts in the Asia-Pacific region. Through the iRehistro program, OFWs can fill out voters’ registration forms in their homes, workplaces, and Internet cafés in their convenience. They can also set their appointment in the FSPs through iRehistro where they will sign their duly-accomplished forms and have their biometrics captured.