By Leslie Ann Aquino
The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) would prefer that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) lease the vote counting machines (VCMs) used in the May 2016 polls than purchase them for the 2019 midterm polls.
Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia said this is so that Comelec won’t have to pay for its maintenance and storage.
“If the AES (automated election system) technology choice was for the reuse of the VCM, we would prefer a lease agreement,” he said in an interview.
“Better that VCMs be leased than exercise the option to purchase since other attendant cost, such as maintenance and storage, would not be shouldered by Comelec,” Alvia added.
In December, the Comelec en banc decided to exercise the option-to-purchase (OTP) clause in their lease contract with Smartmatic for the 97,517 VCMs for P2.1 billion for them to be reused in the May 2019 polls.
“The commission studied what is the best plan… And it was decided that financially or economically speaking, the best solution is OTP. The OTP is about P2.1 billion so you still have a leeway in your budget for others that you might need,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said earlier.
“The P2.1 billion that you are going to spend for the OTP was the only way to make the budget given by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) fit,” he added.
The poll official said the Comelec was only given P8.1 billion for the automation of the 2019 polls by the DBM.
Before the 2013 polls, the poll body also exercised its option-to-purchase clause and acquired all 81,896 units of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines leased for the 2010 elections, for P1.8 billion.
During the 2016 polls, the Comelec opted to lease 90,000 plus VCMs from Smartmatic due to lack of time to refurbish the PCOS machines.