he Commission on Elections has decided that it wants to use once again the precinct count optical scan or PCOS technology in the midterm elections next year. The Comelec, however, has yet to decide if it wants to use the same PCOS machines provided by Smartmatic International Corp. for the 2010 general elections, or if new machines should be leased. With just a year left before the start of the official campaign period, the Comelec must decide quickly and ramp up preparations for the elections.
Purchasing the 81,000 Smartmatic machines, stored in the company’s warehouse in Laguna, will cost P1.8 billion. Leasing other machines, on the other hand, will cost P6.12 billion for 125,000 units that are needed for 2013, Comelec officials said. The cost will eat up most of the P7 billion approved by Congress for the midterm elections.
The automation project plus other supply contracts for the 2013 polls will have to be awarded by public bidding. Before distribution to polling centers, the machines must be tested several times to prevent glitches, foil hackers, and prevent any attempt to manipulate the results. The Comelec has said it doesn’t want a repeat of the long lines of people waiting for up to several hours to cast their votes in 2010 – a consequence of precinct clustering.
All these preparations must be done alongside other measures to ensure that the midterm elections will be orderly and credible, with the results known as quickly as possible. The Comelec still has to undertake the regular cleanup of voters’ lists and distribute voters’ identification cards. Comelec officials have also vowed to streamline the party-list system.
In the first nationwide elections in the administration of “daang matuwid” or straight path, the Comelec should also exert effort in improving its enforcement of limits on election spending. Malacañang can also prod its congressional allies to consider campaign finance reforms, which are vital in curbing corruption and patronage politics in this country.
The worst cases of election-related violence usually involve local politics. The most atrocious – the 2009 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao – stemmed from a clan feud over which members of the same extended family would control the province. Additional effort is needed to bring the level of violence to a minimum during the forthcoming election period. Too many politicians consider murder as an effective tool for eliminating rivals. In the administration of daang matuwid, HOPE – or honest, orderly and peaceful elections – should turn into reality. -