Comelec Seeks P8 Billion to COVID-Proof 2022 Elections

The goal is to minimize voters inside precincts.
Photo/s: Ted Aljibe, Agence France-Presse

The Commission on Elections on Thursday said it needs P8 billion for additional units of vote counting machines to avoid crowding at precincts and ensure that COVID health protocols are observed during the May 2022 elections.

The additional funding is needed to reduce the voter to machine ratio to 600 voters per machine, which can happen if the Comelec can lease at least 32,000 more units of vote counting machines, along with other expenses, its chairperson Sheriff Abas told ANC.

Currently, Comelec has around 97,000 vote counting machines, with a ratio of 1,000 voters per machine at roughly 60 million voters.

The commission originally proposed a P42 billion budget for 2022, but the Department of Budget and Management only recommended P26.5 billion, with a reduction of P15.5 billion.

"Yung sinasabi nilang 600 [voters per machine] for P8 billion, sa ngayon wala yun sa item ng budget namin. Kung halimbawa may ganung proposal, hahanapan pa namin. So magrerequest pa rin kami sa Congress," Abas said.

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"Now, it's on the part of the Senate and the [House] na kung dadagdagan nila. But definitely, wala kaming line item for the P8 billion na additional to bring it to 600 voters per precinct," he added.

Comelec earlier sought to lease additional 10,000 vote counting machines to bring down the ratio to 800 voters per machine, but it declared a failure of bidding after the lone bidder found the P600 million budget too low.

Aside from the lack of funds, Abas also said there might not be enough time to produce the additional vote counting machines needed.

"Problema din natin because gahol na tayo sa oras. Kasi ia-assemble pa nila yan, yung parts nila galing sa labas and then they will assemble sa Philippines," he said.

If Comelec will not be given the additional budget for vote counting machines, Abas said the poll body would make do with what they have.

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"If that will be the case, there's really a need to extend the voting hours. So mag-aadjust tayo sa voting hours para at least hindi magsisiksikan sa mga eskwelahan," he said.

The commission is considering extending the voting hours in the May 9, 2022 for up to 12 hours, with the precincts opening as early as 6 a.m.

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