Friday, 6 March 2009

Philippines oks poll automation budget

10 companies joining public bidding for 2010 project
Senate goes on Lenten recess after approval
Manila Bulletin

The Senate, by a 9-4-0 vote, passed at 12:30 a.m. yesterday the P11.3-billion supplemental budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the automation of the 2010 national and local elections, before going on a month-long Lenten break.

The House of Representatives had earlier approved the same measure with a vote of 193 for, 1 against, and 1 abstention.

Immediately after passing the poll automation fund, the Senate ratified several bicameral conference committee reports or pass on third and final reading several bills, including the Tourism bill.

"The poll automation is on. We did our job, it’s time for you to do your job," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told the Comelec after the voting presided by Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada.

"I believe this (passage of the budget) is imperative in order to respond to the crying need of our people for credibility of elections and legitimacy of leadership," Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said. The committee adopted the House of Representatives-approved bill to hasten its passage after the House dropped its earlier conditions, including a hybrid manual-computer election counting system.

Sen. Richard J. Gordon said the expenditure of P11.3 billion to computerize next year’s election is an investment to ensure the credibility of the victory of the next President.

Those who voted for the measure were Senators Angara, Gordon, Loren Legarda, Rodolfo Biazon, Manuel "Lito" Lapid, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Gregorio Honasan, Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr., and Zubiri.

Those who voted against were Senators Maria Ana Madrigal, Benigno Aquino III, Francis Escudero, and Estrada.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was at his Senate office during the voting, said he would have voted "yes" because automation is the way forward and for the country to finally uncuff itself from the age-old and controversial manual vote counting.

Results of past elections that used manual counting had been marked by violence and allegations of fraud.

Sen. Manuel "Mar" A. Roxas II, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said the Comelec should come up with stringent safeguards to ensure that the automation of the 2010 national and local elections is insulated from wide-scale cheating.

"Every Filipino’s opinion, each man’s vote important. Let us make sure that these are counted correctly. Now that the budget has been approved, we can now focus on ensuring that this will not be used as a tool for massive fraud," he said.

He said Comelec should allow political parties and other concerned entities, like independent cause groups, to actively participate in the crafting of the safeguards.

10 companies joining bidding for P11.3-B poll automation project

By E. T. Suarez

Ten companies, led by Avante International Technology, Inc., and Smartmatic Sahi (Provider), have signified their readiness to participate in the public bidding for the P11.3-billion automation of the May 10, 2010, presidential, congressional, local, and partylist elections.

Avante International and Smartmatic Asahi were the two global firms that won the contracts for the full automation of the Aug. 11, 2008, elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The automation of ARMM elections in Maguindanao was awarded to Smartmatic which used mchines featuring Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology while Avante was awarded the automation of the election in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi using Optical Mark Reader (OMR) system.

For the automation of ARMM polls in five provinces using OMR system, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) spent P125 million while for Maguindanao, more than P527 million was spent.

The full automation of ARMM elections was very successful and revolutionized the country’s electoral process, Comelec Chairman Jose A.R. Melo said.

The eight other companies that expressed readiness to participate in Comelec public bidding for automation of 2010 elections are DVS Korea, Gilat Solutions, Sequioa, ES/S, Hart, DRS, Scantron, and Bharat.

Chairman Melo said the P11.3-billion supplemental budget which the House of Representatives approved last Tuesday, March 3, is for an automated election system, including the acquisition of services, supplies, and machines on a lease with option to purchase.

With the approval of the supplemental budget, Melo said Comelec can start with the bidding process.

He said this could start in the third week of March while the training of election workers and other personnel will start in December.

"What happened in the ARMM elections in which not a single complaint was filed will happen in the entire country if the 2010 polls are fully automated," Melo said.

Nograles urges full support for automation
By Ben R. Rosario

Speaker Prospero C. Nograles yesterday urged the public to fully support the country’s bid for full automation as he stressed that the swift House of Representatives approval of the P11.3-billion supplemental budget for the project should put an end to speculations that congressmen are bent on extending their terms of office and that there would be no elections in 2010.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Faysah RPM Dumarpa said Muslim leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are fully behind the move to fully automate the 2010 elections after the pilot-testing in the ARMM elections.

Dumarpa underscored the need for "less human intervention" in the polls to minimize if not eradicate election cheating.

Nograles said the planned poll automation system in 2010 is "by far the best antidote to electoral fraud" which, he said, has tended to undermine the integrity of Philippine elections. He said the public should fully support the proposal.

The House voted 193 in favor, with 1 against and 1 abstention, in passing HB 5715 on third reading. The Senate approved its counterpart measure before dawn yesterday.

"Poll automation is not about politics. It is not about those in power and those in the opposition. It is about making elections as truthful, clean and honest as possible so that popular democracy will serve its ends. Every Filipino has a stake in this," he said.

"This is our promised covenant with the people. Congress has delivered on its long promise since 2007 to put elections under automation."

The House leader aired hopes that approval of the Comelec automation budget will "put to rest once and for all speculations that there would be no elections next year."

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