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Comelec needs P6.7B to rent out 97,000 new VCMs for 2025 polls — Imee Marcos

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Comelec needs P6.7B to rent out 97,000 new VCMs for 2025 polls â Imee Marcos
COMELEC staff assist early bird voters in Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City on May 9, 2022.
Philstar.com/Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Renting out 97,000 new vote-counting machines for the 2025 mid-term elections would cost the Commission on Elections an estimated P6.7 billion, according to Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs her chamber's committee on electoral reforms and people's participation.

She made the conclusion based on information shared by Comelec officials during a Senate hearing on Tuesday. 

In the livestreamed event, Comelec Director Bartolome Sinocruz said that they would always pay around 70% of the purchase price or P70,000 to rent one VCM. 

Earlier, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said he recommends to the en banc to retire all 97,000 VCMs which are more than a decade old, and opt to lease new ones instead for the 2025 polls. 

"So that would bring us to P70,000 times the 97,000 [VCMs]...So 6.7 billion [pesos]. I don't think we have that amount burning a hole in our pockets right now but I think we could start...phase by phase," Marcos said. 

Garcia explained that leasing new machines is the "best option" instead of buying brand new VCMs, citing the rental costs in storing these machines in a warehouse and the difficulty in maintaining them. "Every now and then, the technology changes," he added in Filipino. 

This is in line with the suggestion of Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan who said they will "definitely recommend" the lease of new VCMs to replace those that are as old as 13 years old. 

"There really is a need to use new VCMs for the 2025 elections," he said in Filipino. 

Some 11,100 new VCMs are currently being leased by the Comelec.

Lack of budget

Pangarungan raised to lawmakers that two-thirds of the Comelec's proposed budget or only P8 billion was approved in their 2022 allocation. 

This is why they were only able to refurbish VCMs, which cost P660 million per machine, a smaller amount compared to leasing a new unit, Garcia explained. 

The poll body hoped to secure a P12 billion budget this year. 

During the hearing, Sen. Marcos also asked about the defective VCMs which bogged down during the May 9 polls. Nearly 1,900 VCMs were reported to have common issues on the first few hours of the polls, with 940 machines experiencing paper jams and 606 rejecting ballots. Technicians were reported to have been able to attend to the machines. 

On Tuesday, Comelec's Garcia said that a total of 1,310 VCMs and 618 SD cards were replaced on elections day. 

The poll body said that the numbers were lower than the figures recorded during the 2019 mid-term elections. During that time, defective VCMs reached 1,400 while the number of faulty SD cards hit 2,256. 

The May 9 polls, seen by many as divisive, had the highest voter turn-out in Philippine history, as 83.07% of local voters cast their ballots and 39% of overseas voters chose their leaders, according to Comelec. 

2022 ELECTIONS

COMELEC

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS

IMEE MARCOS

VCM

VOTE-COUNTING MACHINES

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