By Robertzon F Ramirez

Manila Times

A group opposed to the use of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in the 2016 presidential elections has proposed what it claims is a more efficient and less expensive electoral method.

Nelson Celis, the spokesman for the Automated Election System (AES), said their alternative system involves the use of tablets, iPads and laptops in encoding results from votes cast manually.

Speaking at a forum at the Manila Times office on Thursday, Celis claimed that the government spends P21,274,218,632 for warehousing fees, maintenance, logistics, project management, training and ballots for the 80,000 PCOS machines left over from previous elections. The AES system will cost not more P2mn, he said.

In the group’s proposal, the voting and tabulation will be done manually, but the results will be encoded into mobile devices and laptops.

The encoded votes will be transmitted for canvassing. The Board of Election Canvassers (BEC) in the municipal or city level will transmit the votes for provincial canvassing.

The same process will apply to the national board of canvassers.

Augusto “Gus” Lagman, a former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner, said the process that AES is proposing “is a bit different from the proposal from a year or two years ago. What we (were) proposing in the past is that we should have manual counting and then the results should be encoded in the laptop and then the laptop will transmit the results to the first step in canvassing, but today we are proposing a different set-up because of the gain in popularity of tablets, iPads (and) laptops.”

Celis said the Comelec is not yet ready to implement automated elections as provided for in Republic Act 9369.

He added that Smartmatic, the firm that owns the PCOS machines, had violated the Terms of References (TOR) provided by the Comelec.

“What we can do is implement manual (elections) and electronic transmission (of votes). That’s the only thing that we can do,” Celis said.

He added that a combination of “manual and electronic transmissions” is the best system for 2016.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr has rejected appeals to do away with the PCOS machines in 2016.

He said the Comelec had issued a resolution adopting recommendations of the Comelec Advisory Council to use the PCOS machines.

Brillantes said the Comelec does not have the budget for replacing the PCOS machines.