As the 2010 Elections Approaches

In on the news!

Got, I mean, read this news yesterday, May 11, 2009, on Yahoo!.

The Commission on Election has stated that the poll automation for the 2010 election is gonna push through.

Bids from international and local bidders, all of ‘em, have been rejected last week by the ComElec for lack of necessary documents. Despite of this, the commission doesn’t seem to be considering the idea of a partial automation. According to Chairman Jose Melo, they still have time for a full automation and they haven’t declared a failure of bidding. They will only opt for the partial automation if the winning bidder declares that it can’t be able to finish all 80,000 needed automated counting machines or ACM’s for the elections next year.

For the 2004 elections, the government has bought Php 1.2 billion worth of ACM’s from the Mega Pacific Consortium (MPC). Lawyer Romulo Macalintal has suggested to the ComElec to use the machines bought in 2004. According to him, the reliability and accuracy of these machines were never questions. The Department of Science and Technology has even certified the accuracy of these machines and that they can be used for the 2007 elections. Macalintal has suggested to the Supreme Court the use of these machines but his petition has been denied due to pending criminal cases against some ComElec officials and MPC and the Office of Solicitor general has filed a civil case against the MPC before the Makati City RTC to recover the Php 1.2 billion from the Consortium.

The Supreme Court disallowed use of these counting machines bought from the MPC in 2004 as they were “illegally procured”.

The National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has a different suggestion for the ComElec – the open election system (OES).

Gonzales also said that a manual election is not an option. Time is against full automation but, according to Gonzales, there is enough time for OES.

The people going for OES have also pointed out that the government can save at least Php 7 billion pesos from the Php 11.3 billion budget for full automation if the ComElec will choose OES.

The counting machines bought from the MPC have been kept at the Maxilite warehouse since 2004 and the government has been paying Php 3.9 Million for storage fees of the 1,991 ACM’s from MPC.

According to the ComElec chairman, usage of the already purchased machines is still disallowed as per Supreme Court order.

Somewhere in between the lines of this news, I can see a huge waste of resources – money, Php 12 billion pesos and the storage fees. Not that I totally know all the facts and believe in everything that is laid out in this news. But Php 1.2 billion paid Php 3.9 million to rot and deteriorate in some storage house doesn’t sound too awesome. Even a kindergarten will know how huge this amount is.

Macalintal made good sense in suggesting the usage of these already purchased machines. Even if we are to believe that there are still cases pending in the court in relation to these machines, I believe there is still some way to get the machines through. Won’t it be possible to remove or change the court order prohibiting the use of these machines? Talk of practicality and the fact that the world’s economy is on the low – and neither is the Philippines the kind of country that can afford to waste huge amounts of money. We can sometimes be practical people here once in a while. If we use these machines, we will still need some, yeah, but we will need less and will have to spend less. Since it is the Supreme Court who gave this order to disallow usage of these machines, it is also this body which has the need to come to the right senses and remove this order. Not that I am underestimating or belittling the capabilities of the courts of the Philippines but if there are really pending cases and they won’t decide to remove the order, the Php 1.2 billion spent for the machines from MPC will be put to total waste. I mean, these kinds of cases don’t get done quickly. The machines are a product of technology. New innovations come around once in a while – this is technology we are talking about.  If these machines won’t be used next year, they will become obsolete, if they haven’t already as the machines were purchased 2004.If those ain’t gonna become obsolete, deterioration will be the it to render these machines useless.

Just imagine what Php 1.2 billion could’ve done if only the purchase was not done. But we can’t do anything about it now. The deal is done and all that is left to do is to make good sense of this rather huge expense.

Yes, we still have one year before the elections but if the bidding goes on like this, there ain’t gonna be time for everything. It is still on a bidding process so that would mean that the machines are not yet being built. Next up will be the set-up of these machines. Neither is this one a very easy task especially that it has been in history that the Philippines is an archipelago since a very long time ago. Also, we will have the need to train people to these machines.

Partial automation is a good option. And using the already purchased machines, emphasis on the “and”.

Going for OES can also be a good option. Full automation is actually a giant leap from the manual elections that the Philippines is used to. The OES is a system halfway between the two. Manual voting but automated canvass of votes and the precinct-level counting will remain.

And I don’t want to sound so naïve so I’m adding this.  I am seeing some loophole, or something like it, in the purchase of new machines. There is one pretty good reason, good for them, that is, that the ComElec will insist on a full automation using new machines. If they will opt for a partial automation using the ready machines, no money, or more precisely, huge amount of money will be added to the stash of the damned bastards on the higher-ups of the Commission on Elections. But you can’t possibly tell me that they will be opting for brand new machines because the unused ones has been made obsolete – at least, use it even just once; that would make it less of a waste, though, it is still some waste. If they can’t go for OES, I can still see the same for the bastards.

[Click here for the original news from Yahoo!]

This is the Knightingale continuing her watch…

*Non-italicized words are from Yahoo!’s news – reworded, rephrased, restructured, and given my tongue – not so much really. Words in italics are some sort of opinions. The starting words  are in bold to separate them from the news.

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