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Release of poll budget urged

Posted on: February 25, 2009

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20090224-190833/Release-of-poll-budget-urged

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:09:00 02/24/2009

Filed Under: Elections, State Budget & Taxes, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—A delay in the release of the P11.3 billion supplemental budget for poll automation will affect the timeline for the purchase of voting machines and other activities related to the conduct of the 2010 elections, an official said.

Commission on Elections executive director Jose Tolentino said the schedule of activities for poll automation “will be very tight” if the budget would be released later than April 1.

Tolentino said the scheduled activities “are dependent on each other and that delay on one activity will affect succeeding activities.”

In its timetable, the poll body is set to start publication of the invitation to bid on April 3 if the budget is released April 1. It will then issue notice of award to the winning bidder on May 22.

In an earlier report, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said the P11.3 billion supplemental budget for automating the 2010 elections must be given to the poll body no later than May 20 this year, so the winning bidder would have time to arrange for the “procurement, production, delivery and customization of the voting machines” as suggested by the Comelec Advisory Council.

Tolentino cited as example the customization of systems for national poll automation, which requires 166 days from May 28 to November 11 based on the Comelec’s timetable.

Other activities such as delivery and testing of the machines, mock elections and public demonstration of the system are dependent on the customization of the automated systems, he said.

“If the period we require will be reduced, it will be difficult [to customize the systems on time for the succeeding activities],” Tolentino said, adding the delay in schedule would be “a recipe for disaster.”

He added the Comelec is “effectively immobilized from proceeding with the preparations and might end up preparing for something different” given that House members on Monday announced the option for “pre-conditional approval” of House Bill 5715, which allocates P11.3 billion as supplemental budget for automating the 2010 polls.

Representative Junie Cua, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said lawmakers during Monday’s caucus reached agreement to pass House Bill 5715 but subject to several pre-conditions.

“In the caucus, while we agree as a body to pass an appropriation measure, the House will write into law a provision that no funds shall be dispense until a legislation is passed defining the process of automation agreed upon by House members,” Cua said.

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