The COMELEC ‘s (Commission on Elections) dream of n automated election has finally come true, just yesterday actually as they formally awarded the P7.2 B contract to Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corportation. The deal may be a bargain to some regarding the amount approved earlier by Congress (P11.3 B), but what worries most is that the bargain may come at a price. If the poll machines would prove to be mediocre and would be an easy target for the corrupt to cement their spot in public office.
The dream of an automated poll came along with the new millenium, as Filipinos associated the arrival of modern time with modern technology. Congress paved the road for it, and the long wait seemed to have arrived last 2003 when COMELEC awarded the poll automation contract to Mega Pacific consortium. A budget was released that would pay for almost 2,000 machines at a cost of about P1.2 billion, the project was intended for the 2004 general elections. But a few months before the polls, the Supreme Court (SC) voided the deal citing irregularities in the COMELEC’s bidding guidelines. And in effect, all those who participated in the Mega Pacific contract were given graft charges.
This case is still under process and while the accused are still walking free, the purchased machines are rotting in where ever they are stored. So before we celebrate of having modern elections, we must first wait until the voting day itself to see if the billions of peso were really worth it.
There are still many obstacles we need to hurdle though, one tough test for thewinning consortium is if they can deliver the machines in perfect(or at least P7.2 B worth) quality. The votes must be tallied accurately, without any glitches that could expose it to the risk of being hacked.
And even if they have already found the supplier, the COMELEC are not yet off the hook though. In fact, they are in a make or break situation. They need to distribute the machines to all of the voting precincts nationwide and educate the poll officers on how to operate the machines.
There are also some problems that would still hinder the new automation method to be successful. As votes can still be bought and voters intimidated. The COMELEC also need to cater problems regarding the machines if they persist.
All of these needs to be done in order to finally, after all these years, say we have a modern electoral process.