The Commission on Elections (Comelec) appealed for a higher budget next year to prepare for a safer 2022 elections in case the pandemic persists until then.
During a House budget hearing, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that a huge portion of their proposed 2021 budget is intended to increase the number of vote-counting machines or VCMs to lessen contact as they assume a “new normal” scenario in 2022.
“Ang balak po ng Comelec para sa 2022 is to make sure na ang halalan ay magiging ligtas sa ating mga kababayan na boboto,” Jimenez said.
“Kaya po tayo nananawagan ngayon sa Kongreso na sana ma-restore yung aming budget at makuha natin yung buong pangangailangan natin ay para makapagdagdag tayo ng makina.”
[The Comelec wants to make sure elections will be safe by 2022 for our voters. This is why we appeal to Congress to restore our budget so that we could properly respond to the needs of the agency, including a higher number of voting machines.]
The Comelec requested a ₱30.673-billion budget for 2021, with only ₱14.565 billion approved by the Department of Budget and Management.
“Ine-expect natin na dadami ang ating botante dahil year on year dumadami ang list of voters. Kapag madaming botante at nagsisiksikan sila sa isang makina, medyo unsafe po iyan dahil sa sitwasyon nating pandemya ngayon,” he added.
[We expect that we will have more voters by then because year on year, the list of voters increases. When voters increase and crowd in polling places over one machine, that would be more unsafe, given the pandemic today.]
“One of the cornerstones of that campaign is to ensure na mas kaunti ang gagamit per machine (that there will be lesser voters assigned for each machine), which means we’re going to need more machines than the ones that we have now,” Jimenez said.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said they pitched to lease a new type of machine and replace VCMs used in the 2016 and 2019 elections. If disapproved, available funds will be spent to refurbish voting equipment.