RECORDS from the Commission on Elections showed that out of the 85,769 vote counting machines (VCMs) and Secure Digital (SD) cards, there were 961 (1.1 percent) VCMs and 1,665 (1.9 percent) SD cards that were found defective and needed replacement on Election Day last Monday, May 13.
"Definitely, as compared in 2016, there are more now," Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said. During the 2016 Elections, 801 VCMs and 120 SD cards had to be replaced.
Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, head of the Comelec 2019 Steering Committee, said the defective cards were made of low quality and the VCMs being "old" may have been a factor for their malfunction.
He said the Comelec had to follow the Government Procurement Law in looking for an SD cards supplier for a budget of P80 million.
"If we review the bidding process on the SD cards, our approved budget is about P80 million. However, since we are applying the procurement rules, which is the lowest bid, which was P39 million. So what do we expect with a P39 million for that scenario?" said Casquejo.
He also noted that the VCMs were the same ones that were used in the May 2016 elections.
"Even if we have our cellphone, laptops or computers, their ageing is usually only three years, some five years. By then you have to upgrade it," noted Casquejo.
So in the last three years leading to the election, the Comelec had done nothing to check the quality of the VCMs and SD cards prior to the 2019 Midterm Elections?
They have three years to conduct preparations and learn from the mistakes in the previous elections. Instead, based on what we saw during the elections on Monday, it seems like the problems with the VCMs and SD cards have worsened.
Comelec may be partly to blame for this for not pushing for better quality of equipment. However, maybe it is time to look into the government's procurement rules, wherein what is cheaper will be bought.
As a lesson from this year's election, Comelec may want to be the one to spearhead in lobbying for the improvement of procurement rules in the country -- quality over the price. It may also want to increase its budget for the elections to be able to buy better quality SD Cards.
The Filipinos never deserve substandard materials from the government. For an event as important as an election, everything should be of best quality.
There is another three years for the Comelec to prepare. We hope in the 2022 Presidential and National elections, there will be no more problems with the VCMs and SD cards.