ELECTION officials said P6.7 billion is needed to lease new vote-counting machines (VCMs), warning that more incidents of malfunctioning hardware could be expected during the 2025 midterm elections if the very old ones are not replaced.
At a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan said they were forced to refurbish old VCMs instead of leasing new ones for the May 9 elections as Congress had only provided the agency a budget of P8 billion instead of the requested P12 billion.
“So definitely, we will recommend leasing new vote-counting machines because (some of) these VCMs are 13 years old, as you say, so we really need to use new ones for the 2025 elections,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia said a total of 1,310 VCMs had to be replaced on election day, including 1,295 within the country and 15 abroad, while around 1,800 VCMs needed fixing.
“I personally would recommend to the en banc, in case we’ll still be there, to retire the 97,000. It is no longer feasible at this point to use these machines in 2025. It’s already too old,” Mr. Garcia said.
Acting Comelec spokesperson John Rex C. Laudiangco told reporters that 97,000 VCMs used on May 9 were at least seven years old.
Senator Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, who chaired the hearing, said she will bring up the proposal during the budget deliberations for 2023, adding that the required allocation could probably be released “in tranches, as much as we can afford.”
“But at the same time, we need to keep in view that they (new and old machines) need to be interoperable without… shackling the Comelec to the same service provider,” she said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan