Comelec jumps six-fold to P16.8B

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


SENATE President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto questioned on Wednesday the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) P16.8 billion proposed budget for 2015, which is six times its budget this year of P2.8 billion.

The senator described the proposed increase "as a high price we're being told to pay to have clean elections in 2016."

Recto said P3.76 billion of the Comelec budget would be used to buy 41, 800 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines at a cost of P90,000 each.

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"The Comelec is targeting a 4 percent increase in the number of registered voters which stood at 54,051,626 in August last year," Recto said.

In addition, about 18,050 national and local posts are also elected, Recto said.

"Aside from national elections, elections are also called for Sangguniang Barangay (SB) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) posts every three years," he said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM)'s presentation to the House committee on appropriations last August 6 showed that the new PCOS machines will augment the 80,000 existing units in the poll body's inventory.

Recto mulled over if purchasing PCOS machines on a multi-billion price tag is justified. However, the views of other stakeholders like Comelec chairman Sixto Serrano Brillantes Jr. would also be sought regarding the matter, he said.

"If the expenses would be that large, many will question why we have to buy many PCOS machines which will only be used once every three years," Recto said.

"But I am interested in knowing if this will be a recurring expense, if this is what we will have to shell out every time we hold an election, which in this land is once every 500 days," he added.

Recto said the final 2016 election tab could be higher as the P16.8 billion was just the request of the Comelec for preparations to be done a year before, on which the amount does not include the funds required for election year proper.

"On top of the P11.43 billion for capital outlays, another 2016 election-related expense frontloaded in the 2015 budget is P1.2 billion for 'preparatory activities' including voter’s registration," Recto said.

"In all, the Comelec is eyeing to buy P11.43B worth of assorted new equipment," he added, pertaining to the DBM’s briefing paper.

Recto said the proposed P11.4 billion for new Comelec equipment is too big: 19 times bigger than the proposed P592 million for Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) expansion, 28 times of what they would pay 398 new Department of Health (DOH) doctors in 2015, and two and a half times the total senior citizens pension of some 739,000 elderly.

"It is three and a half times of what our national vaccines and immunization budget is for next year, 11 times bigger than the Community Mortgage Program budget, and 22 times bigger than the Quick Reaction Fund of the Department of Agriculture for calamities," he added.

Though the 2015 budget proposal of Comelec is too large, Recto said that he is not blaming them.

"Probably, what is at fault here is that we have so many government units, which create many positions up for grabs, which invite many candidates, who in turn, will be chosen by a large voting base," Recto said.

"If the P16 billion cost to hold an election becomes a regular request every three years, then, there is no harm in looking for other means on how to bring down the cost of administering elections in this country," he added.

Recto said that they had "job fair" every three years to allow people to hire close to 700,000 officials and the manner of hiring them was the one that was expensive.

"We can only hire less than a thousand doctors, probably a hundred PhD scientists and about 10,000 policemen every three years but we elected officials in bulk, by the hundreds of thousands during the same period," Recto said. (Sunnex)

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