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Comelec to enter deals with power suppliers

Posted on: April 29, 2009

TO AVOID POWER BLACKOUTS IN 2010
Comelec to enter deals with power suppliers

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:35:00 04/28/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Electricity Production & Distribution, Energy & Resources, Energy

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at entering deals with the Manila Electric Co and other power suppliers to prevent power outages during the 2010 automated elections, an official said.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said he would elevate this concern to the poll en banc, which aims to lead to formal agreements with power suppliers to ensure continuous power supply throughout the duration of the May 2010 elections.

Fears of power outages surfaced following the recent 10-hour power blackout in the Visayas region.

In previous elections, power blackouts occurred during the counting and canvassing of ballots at polling and canvassing precincts, Sarmiento said. During that time, cheating has occurred, he added.

Sarmiento said the Comelec through its bid documents required bidders to have standby battery units for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units, so the machines could still operate in events of power outages.

As an added measure, the PCOS will have a removable, non-rewritable memory storage device containing the stored voting data of a precinct. This serves as “emergency unit” in case there would be problems in the electronic transmission, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, who quoted provisions in the bid documents, added.

A board of election officer could transport the device to the nearest precinct so the data can be transmitted, he added.

“Preparations on automating the 2010 elections are full blast,” Sarmiento said.

The poll body is confident that the automation project will push through as planned. About 82, 000 PCOS machines, including standby units, would be deployed in polling precincts nationwide.

Under the Comelec poll automation plan, voters will cast their votes by shading the oval near the candidates’ names pre-printed in the ballot. The ballot is then fed to the PCOS for scanning and counting.

At the close of polls, the PCOS units will consolidate the votes of each candidate, generate Election Returns (ERs) and electronically transmit the results to Comelec’s designated servers.

Traditional or manual elections have always been open to electoral fraud such as misappreciation of votes during ballot reading and vote counting, dagdag bawas (vote padding and vote shaving) during counting and canvassing of votes and ballot switching or snatching and ballot stuffing during transport of ballot boxes from polling places to canvassing sites, said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento noted the Comelec is expecting to award the poll automation contract on May 22, despite moving the opening of bid proposals to May 4, a week later than the original date.

After the bidding, there will be a technical evaluation of poll machines from April 30 to May 8.

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