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Comelec to consider using new poll system

THE Commission on Elections has finally agreed to look into the proposed system it has repeatedly rejected in the past to be used for the coming local and national elections in 2016.

The agency made the decision in case the Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machines are not used for the 2016 elections.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the agency had invited former commissioner Gus Lagman to present on Friday the Transparent and Credible Election System or TCrES, an automated election system that the latter have been pushing since 2010.

TCREST is a system in which individuals vote manually but the result is transmitted electronically.

“The system, like he said, is still in line with the definition of automated, but up to this point we don’t share the same interpretation,” Jimenez said.

“But like I said, no stone will be unturned.

We will hear the position of Commissioner Lagman. This will be his opportunity to finally and formally present his idea on what to do with TCrES and we are looking forward to that.”

Jimenez said the presentation of Lagman and fellow IT experts will be made before the Comelec sitting as a group.

“It would be a very good opportunity for him that could provide possibilities for us,” he said.

Since 2010 the Comelec had been opposing the use of the TcrES, which is also known as the open election system or OES.

Lagman also failed to convince the senior Comelec officials even when he was appointed commissioner in 2011 and served only until 2012, when President Benigno Aquino III decided not to re-appoint him.

Jimenez said the reason they did not share Lagman’s idea was because they felt the hybrid system did not qualify as an automated election system or AES as defined in Republic Act 9369.

Under the TCrES, the voting and precinct counts are done manually before those are encoded before transmission.

Afterwards, the precinct results will be electronically transmitted to the Municipal, Provincial, and National Board of Canvassers as well as to the Central Verification Server for the official canvassing of votes.

In a separate interview, Lagman confirmed his meeting with the Comelec on Friday and expressed optimism its members would be “open-minded.”

 “All I can say at this point is that I am pretty sure they are more open minded than the Brillantes commission,” said Lagman in reference to retired Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, his long time friend turned enemy.

 Lagman and Brillantes have had a long-standing word war over the AES when the latter was still at the Comelec’s helm.

The Comelec is now mapping out contingency plans after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the negotiated contract between the poll body and Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. for the refurbishment of 81,000 PCOS units.

The Comelec is also looking at the possibility of letting its own IT do the refurbishing instead of commissioning Smartmatic or hold another public bidding.

Jimenez also said they might use the Optical Mark Reader as a replacement to the PCOS machines in case the high court scrapped the diagnostic and refurbishment contract. They might also hold another public bidding and purchase 120,000 OMR units.

 “The OMR is our ultimate backup [if everything does not work out],” Jimenez said.

 “120,000 OMR units nationwide, and the ratio will be one is to 600 voters.”

Jimenez said they had no concrete plans yet because the Comelec was still pushing for the lifting of the high court’s TRO against its contract with Smartmatic.

 “We are pursuing the lifting of the TRO. We want [the high court] to junk the TRO and dismiss the case, but at the same time we are now studying all alternative means,” Jimenez said.

So far, there are ongoing bidding for the procurement of 23,000 OMR units to be used as a supplement to the PCOS machines.

Smartmatic-TIM turned to be the most eligible to bid after Indra Sytemas S.A. submitted “non-responsive” financial proposals for the P2.2-billion lease project.

Jimenez said if another bidding for the 120,000 units would not materialize, they would be looking at the possibility of using the 23,000 OMR units nationwide.

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