MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) launched on Tuesday the mock polls in select schools in Dasmariñas City, Cavite and Quezon City in preparation for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in October.
In a press conference, Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said the poll body allotted 1,000 machines, which are still approved as usable by the technical evaluation committee.
Garcia said the Comelec will use a 1:1 or "actual to contingency machine" ratio for select precincts in these areas.
"Sa ibang parte ng bansa, manual ang halalan. Dito po sa Dasmariñas at saka sa District 6 ay automated ang eleksyon. Bakit pinili ang Dasmariñas, bakit pinili ang Quezon City? Pinili namin 'yung malaki (In other parts of the country, the voting will be manual. Here in Dasmariñas City and in District 6, the election shall be automated. Why did we choose Dasmariñas and Quezon City? We chose the bigger ones)," he said.
Based on Comelec data, there are around 60,766 voters in 133 clustered precincts at Barangay Pasong Tamo in Quezon City District 6; while there are around 51,435 registered voters in 101 clustered precincts at Barangay Paliparan III and another 1,475 voters in three clustered precincts at Barangay Zone II in Dasmariñas City.
The number of machines, meanwhile, is limited since the majority of the 2016-purchased batch of machines are no longer fit for use which account for 97,000 items in total.
Among the glitches observed last 2022 polls using the refurbished batch include ballot paper jams and overheating.
However, Garcia said there is no assurance that the same glitches for the remaining 1,000 machines will be avoided, hence the provision of contingency units.
"Wala pong guarantee na ganun dahil matatagal na itong mga machines na ito (There's no guarantee to that because these machines are old)," he said.
Garcia underscored the importance of preparing for the succeeding automated elections.
He cited clear advantages under the automated setup, including easier and faster work for teachers and election officers, minimum assistance to voters who are having a hard time writing during manual voting, and faster and accurate transmission of votes.
"In the long run, mas mahal nang kaunti ang automated election pero at least ganun ka-accurate (the automated election is a bit expensive but at least it's that accurate)," Garcia said.
Garcia recalled how the 2022 automated elections resulted in a higher voter turnout of 84 percent, with only 23 election-related violence recorded; the transmission of results within an hour; and the public awareness of poll results within three hours.
"Siguro nga, 'pag mabilis ang result, walang nanggugulo, walang nang-ha-harass, walang nagco-commit ng violence o terrorism kasi alam na kung sinong nanalo. Manggulo man siya, panalo na 'yung mismong dapat... 'Yun po ang kagandahan ng isang automated election (Perhaps if you have faster results, no one is causing trouble or harassment, neither violence nor terrorism, because they already know who won. And whether they cause trouble, there are winners already. These is the good thing about automated elections)," he said.
New automated machines
The poll body also disclosed preparations for the target automated setup for the National and Local Elections (NLE) in May 2025.
Garcia said the Comelec is looking into 71 million registered voters for the midterm polls, which entail around 128,000 precincts.
"Kapag 128,000 na precinct, kailangan mo ng 128,000 na machines and therefore kakailanganin ng Comelec na mag-procure ng 128,000 na machines (If there are 128,000 precincts, you need 128,000 machines and therefore the Comelec needs to procure 128,000 machines)," he said.
Garcia clarified that the procurement means "leasing" instead of buying new machines.
"Mas mura po 'yun, hindi tayo magwa-warehouse. Hindi rin tayo magme-maintain, at least bago lagi 'yung lahat ng makinang 'yan (That's cheaper because we will no longer need warehousing. Also, we will not be maintaining, at least all of these machines are new)," he added.
The poll body targets to procure machines this year to roll out tests, international certification and code reviews next year as preparation for the 2025 NLE.
It also aims to choose machines that have better systems, automatic correction features, an option for stamping instead of shading votes, and one that fits the country's tropical climate.
The procurement was included in the poll body's proposed budget submitted to the executive, including targets to cover internet voting expenses for overseas Filipinos.
With plans in place for May 2025 midterm polls, Garcia raised concerns about the timing of the succeeding BSKE in December in the same year considering the budget and preparatory challenges.
Challenges were raised in connection with the previous ruling of the Supreme Court ordering the conduct of the next BSKE in December 2025 following the October BSKE, and all other BSK polls three years thereafter.
"Hindi po kasama at di po na-factor in, di naman natin inaasahan na magiging ganun ang desisyon ng kagalang-galang na Korte Suprema na kung saan pinaiksi pa 'yung term (We did not include it [in the budget proposal] and we did not factor-in. We did not expect the honorable Supreme Court to rule that decision wherein the term [of 2023 BSKE officials] will be shortened)," Garcia said.
He added that if Comelec will have an automated BSKE in December 2025, it should prepare two years prior alongside its preparation for the 2025 national and local elections.
To date, the poll body is planning to submit a motion for reconsideration for matters including the holding of two major elections within the same year, and the regularity and predictability of the three-year term of BSKE officials yet to be elected by October. (PNA)