Thursday, 11 March 2010

5,000 ballot boxes shipped in

Bernice Camille V. Bauzon
Manila Times

Some 5,000 ballot boxes that will be used for the automated elections on May 10 have arrived in the country, a high-ranking official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Wednesday.

According to Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, the first batch of the ballot boxes, which were manufactured by Smartmatic Corp., came from Taiwan.

Smartmatic is also the manufacturer of some 82,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines together with a Filipino company, Total Information Management (TIM). The poll body ordered 77,000 ballot boxes.

The Comelec decided to also award the manufacturing of the ballot boxes to the Barbados-based firm to make sure that the ballot boxes match the electoral forms that will be used for the PCOS machines.

“We have now 5,000 ballots and we expect 5,600 ballot boxes to arrive also tomorrow [Thursday]. We’ll have the ballot boxes arriving every so often,” Larrazabal said.

He added that the Bureau of Customs cleared the first major shipment of ballot boxes. The contract for the ballot boxes is about P200 million and is on top of the P7.6 billion for the PCOS machines.

“This is a purchase, not a lease. After the elections, we get to use the ballot boxes as storage for the ballots and for other uses in coming elections,” the commissioner said.

Unlike the ballot boxes, the 82,200 PCOS machines are leased from the joint venture of Smartmatic-TIM with an option to purchase them by the end of the elections.

The poll body decided to lease first the election machines since it wants to make sure that the PCOS units work as expected in automating the elections on May 10.

No spare ballot boxes

Larrazabal said that there is no need for spare ballot boxes even if the commission ordered a total of 77,000 of which 1,000 are considered spare.

“You don’t need extra ballot boxes because you just need the extra machines to slide into the ballot boxes,” he added.

“[But] in case something happens, you have to ensure that there are spare [ballot boxes],” Larrazabal said.

About 76,000 out of the 82,200 PCOS machines will be deployed nationwide during the polls. The 6,000 spare machines will be used as backup for units that would bog down.

Larrazabal said that the ballot boxes would be stored at the Philippine Post Office although they are thinking of bringing them to the poll body’s warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, where the PCOS machines are also stored.

“The ballot boxes will be [delivered] together with the PCOS machines, so before they will be shipped out, we will be calling the political parties to inform them of the shipping schedule. [This way], they will be able to track the delivery,” he added.

Larrazabal said that the delivery must be done a few days before the polls since the testing and the sealing of the machines will be done three to four days before May 10.

“So, three to seven days before elections, they [boxes and machines] should be there already in the polling places. In some areas, we will be distributing [them] direct to the polling places [while] in some areas, we will be distributing [them] through a hub,” he added.

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