No new vote counting machines for 2022 polls – COMELEC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 22) - There will be no new vote counting machines (VCM) for the general elections in 2022 because of budget constraints, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said on Thursday.

COMELEC Chairman Sheriff Abas told a Senate budget hearing that VCMs used during the 2016 and 2019 polls will be refurbished instead.

Abas said the Department of Budget and Management only approved a ₱14.5-billion budget for the COMELEC next year, or below half of its proposed budget of ₱30 billion.

“From what I know, there is a budget ceiling, budget fiscal space being implemented by the Department of Budget and Management. Based on their budget space, they can no longer accommodate our request for a P30-billion budget for 2021,” Abas said.

“Iyong bago siyempre, iyon yung mga may mga upgrading na gagamitin naming kapag bago iyong machines na ili-lease naming. Sa durability, mas maganda. Siyempre nga naisip naming na Presidential itong 2022, mas mainam san ana bago ang gagamitin natin,” Abas said.

[Translation: We will use the latest ones. Those are the upgraded ones that we will use if the machines we will lease are brand news. In terms of durability, Its good. For us, we think that it would be better to use brand new machines, especially that it is the presidential elections in 2022.]

Abas said the COMELEC would only need ₱1 billion to refurbish the VCMs.

He said the commission is hoping to lease additional 20,000 VCMs in 2022 in anticipation of more voters and high turnout.

The poll body is also requesting for an additional budget to procure more VCMs to reach its target of reducing the number of voters per precinct from 1,000 to 800 people.

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto recognized the importance of increasing Comelec’s budge if the pandemic lingers until 2022.

“The idea is to you don’t want it to be a super spreader, assuming nandyan parin ang pandemic (assuming that the pandemic is still there). Mabuti na pinaplano natin iyan (It’s good that it is already being planned),” Recto said.

Abas said should there be a two-day election, they would need an additional budget.

For the salary of teachers alone, Abas said that would cost ₱1 billion.

CNN Philippines' correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report