Comelec still can’t decide on lease bid

THE Comelec’s decision to award the contract to lease 23,000 Optical Mark Reader units to Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. is still uncertain as it is still considering using former poll commissioner Gus Lagman’s hybrid system.

In a recent press briefing, Commission on Elections Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the commission en banc had yet to decide whether or not they would use the hybrid system and that the deal with Smartmatic might be scrapped once they chose Lagman’s manual-automated system for next year’s Presidential elections.

“As of now, the commission en banc is also looking at the hybrid system. If we agree to use the hybrid, we will not issue the notice to proceed,” Lim said.

He said their recent decision to favor Smartmatic only entitled the company to be awarded the contract, but as long as they had yet to issue a notice to proceed, their decision could change anytime.

“Even granting the protest, basically it just entitles you to award, but the end date of that is the issuance of the notice to proceed by the agency, and that’s the most critical portion,” Lim said.

“At the same time, we don’t want to waste any time. While we are evaluating the hybrid system, we are proceeding the decision on the protest.”

Lagman had changed his proposal from Transparent and Credible Election System (TCrES) to Precinct Automated Tallying System (PATaS).

In PATaS, according to Lagman, the voting is done manually as the voters have to write either the name or assigned number of their chosen candidate in the ballot and then drop it into the ballot box. The board of election inspectors will then manually tally the number of votes on a blackboard.

The automation part only occurs when the Board of Election Inspectors transmits the total tallied votes to the main servers using laptops with broadband technology.

Lagman also proposed that the Comelec install a Closed Circuit Television camera in all 300 precincts nationwide so that the public could witness the manual counting process through the Internet.

Lagman says his proposed system, which he renamed from TCrES to PATAs, will have more credible results than Smartmatic-Total Information Management Inc’s Precinct Count Optical Scan machines.

 “The problem with our current system, the PCOS, is that during its first step, we do not know if they counted the votes correctly,” Lagman said.

He says his hybrid system eliminates the possibility of a wholesale manipulation of the results since the votes are counted manually.

He says that through the CF card in the PCOS machines, the technology provider can easily manipulate the votes.

In terms of money, Lagman says, the government will be able to save more money by employing the hybrid system, which is priced at P4 to P5 billion. This means that the cost would be cut in half compared to the price of using the automated system of P9.5 to 14.5 billion.

Lim said they were still awaiting the assessment of the various stakeholders about the end-to-end demonstration of Lagman’s hybrid system.

He said they will release a report about the Hybrid system days before they attend the House hearing on July 9.


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