Comelec says P2.5B needed to flash counting of ballots through projectors in 2022 polls

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 16 2020 12:40 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it needs an additional P2.5 billion to implement a Senate proposal to use projectors during the counting of ballots in the 2022 elections.

Lawmakers have been eyeing the use of projectors and bar code scanners in the next presidential polls for a more transparent vote-counting.

"Kailangan talaga mag-lease tayo ng bago [machines] if we implement the automated manual counting," Comelec Commissioner Mario Casquejo told the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms.

The proposal involves the purchase of new machines, including hand-held scanners that will be used to bar or QR codes on every ballot, and projectors that will be used to flash digital tally sheets.

The vote counting machines used in the 2019 midterm polls cannot be used to project the tallying of votes due to the equipment's small screen, Casquejo said.

The P2.5 billion is on top of the Comelec's P24-billion budget proposal, he said.

"I don't know if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will give the Comelec that budget," the election commissioner said.

If the DBM cuts the Comelec's proposed budget in half, election officers may have to manually count votes should lawmakers insist on showing the public the actual tallying of votes, he said.

Casquejo said the P24-billion budget also involves the purchase of new vote counting machines.

"If we reuse the vote counting machines that we used in 2019, we have to refurbish it, recondition it, repair it and we have to enhance the software," he said.

"It will cost half of the P24 billion that will be needed," he added.

Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chair Imee Marcos said that the amount "doesn't seem to be a big cost for democracy," but should also be reviewed as the government prioritizes funding health and economic programs to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.

"I asked about the feasibility of funding a hybrid election system for the next elections because we, in Senate, do not want to pass legislation that will only end up as an unfunded law," she said.

The Senate initially planned to test the hybrid system in May, but the plan was cancelled due to the pandemic.