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BEFORE CONGRESS TAKES BREAK Melo skeptical on passage of poll budget

Posted on: March 2, 2009

Original post

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 21:03:00 02/26/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2007, Legislation, Eleksyon 2010, State Budget & Taxes

MANILA, Philippines—Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo was less optimistic Congress could pass the P11.3 poll automation supplemental budget before it goes on a month-long recess starting next week.

The appropriation bill was approved on second reading Wednesday night at the House of Representatives but on condition a separate measure be passed to ensure an honest, clean and orderly conduct of the country’s first automated national elections.

“I hope they finish that [amendatory bill] which is rush work. I hope they will, but I am a little skeptical,” Melo said.

“Without the budget, there will be no automation. We’ll see if they can approve the budget on time,” he said.

The Senate committee on finance deferred the passage of a counterpart legislation pending House Bill 5715’s final approval at the lower chamber. Committee chairman Senator Edgardo Angara said the bill would be only be approved when session resumes on April 13.

“The Senate action is correct—that they will wait for the elevation of the approved appropriations act on because they cannot do [bill approval] unless the House approves its allocation,” said Melo.

Elections commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the budget should be out by April 12, citing a timeline the poll body was following.

Based on the Comelec’s schedule, Melo said that the last day of awarding the contract to the winning bidder should have been done by May 22.

“We are serious to automate the poll because the law mandates the Comelec conducts nationwide poll automation in 2010,” he said. “But I cannot make the assurance, it has to be the Congress.”

“If the Congress approves the release of the budget, we will automate,” he said, as he cited that Bhutan, the youngest democracy in the world, had its first election automated last year.

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