By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has purchased 97,350 vote counting machines (VCMs) for reuse in the 2019 elections.
“We have purchased 97,350 units of vote-counting machines, and all of them passed through hardware acceptance test,” Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino told the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Elections System (JCOC-AES) in its hearing Thursday, in preparation for the May, 2019 midterm elections.
Tolentino said the acceptance test they conducted on the VCMs assured that machines would be “running properly” for next year’s polls.
To recall, the Comelec en banc decided last year to exercise the option-to-purchase clause in their lease contract with poll technology provider Smartmatic for some 97,500 VCMs worth P2.1 billion so they could be reused.
Tolentino, however, told the panel that they were not able to acquire the number of VCMs initially planned for the 2019 elections due to the following reasons:
He said 11 VCMs were not returned to the Comelec and were declared missing. One unit, on the other hand, supposedly “burned.”
Meanwhile, 152 VCMs are still subject to the precautionary protection order issued by the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) due to protest filed by losing senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino against Sen. Leila de Lima after the 2016 national elections.
The Comelec official clarified that the poll body still has ownership over the VCMs now in SET scrutiny, although Francis had “paid” for it.
When asked by JCOC-AES chair Sen. Koko Pimentel, Tolentino said the missing VCMs would not threaten the results of the 2019 polls.
“No sir, because before they could use it for elections, it has to be configured; they should have a configured SD cards; and they should also have ballots. It will be a big conspiracy before they could use the machines,” Tolentino told Pimentel.