Comelec should weigh its options on leasing or buying the PCOS machines

Lawmakers urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to study its
options on whether to lease the Precinct Optical Scan (PCOS) machines
for the 2013 and 2016 elections or to just buy it, whichever is
advantageous to government in financing the elections.

In House Resolution 1909, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan
de Oro), urged the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms
to conduct an inquiry on the plans of the Comelec to lease new PCOS
machines for the 2013 elections at the cost of P8 billion instead of
purchasing the same PCOS machines that were used during the 2010
elections for only P1.8 billion taking into consideration the huge
savings for government.

Rodriguez said Comelec can purchase the PCOS machines for the 2013 and
2016 polls by paying the balance of 33% or P1.8 billion under its
contract with Smartmatic, a private company which owns the PCOS
machines.

However, Rodriguez cautioned that if the Comelec would lease the
machines from Smartmatic for the 2013 and 2016 elections, the
government would spend P22 billion.

According to Rodriguez, right after the May 2010 elections, the
Comelec announced that it may also shelve any plans to purchase the
used PCOS machines due to possible problems in storage and
maintenance.

Rodriguez said the Comelec also announced that they instead plan to
conduct another round of bidding for the lease of a different set of
PCOS machines for the upcoming elections instead of exercising its
option to purchase the PCOS machines used during the 2010 elections.

“However, it has been claimed by Smartmatic that the Philippine
government can save as much as P22 billion if it buys the used PCOS
machines now and uses them in the next four elections,” Rodriguez
said.

Rodriguez said there are also concerns that the used PCOS machines
would readily become obsolete considering the pace at which technology
evolves and the rate at which hackers are able to access new security
features of computers.

“There is a need to study the options available to the government and
to look into new and up to date safeguards for the existing PCOS
machines and consider, which the best option is without sacrificing
the integrity of the elections,” Rodriguez said.

Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr.  (Party-list, Abante Mindanao Inc.), another
author of the measure, said the country experienced its very first
automated elections last May 2010, amidst doubts with the security
features, accuracy and reliability of the PCOS machines leased by the
Comelec from Smartmatic.

“The automated elections were generally successful with only minor
glitches mostly due to time constraints and logistics and the results
were released in record time,” Rodriguez said.

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