Garcia: Fate of VCMs must be decided next year

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 4) — Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman George Garcia hopes they will be able to finalize by next year whether to use the existing vote-counting machines (VCMs) or lease new ones to prepare for the next elections.

Garcia told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday that leasing VCMs is more practical than having to buy new units because of the changing technology. He said it would also save the government in maintenance and storage costs.

"Kung nakalease 'yan, wala na tayong problema sa maintenance. Sila (providers) ang magme-maintain ng ating rerentahan. Number two, sa warehousing sila ang magbabayad, hindi ang Comelec. Medyo mahal po ang ganung klaseng scenario," he said. "But definitely by next year we should start the ball rolling whether we will purchase or whether we will lease the machines."

[Translation: If the units are leased, we will not have a problem with maintenance. The providers will be the ones resposnible for the units we will rent. Number two, they will take care of the warehousing, not the Comelec. That kind of scenario is costlier.]

"I will ensure it would be a transparent process, at the same time may partisipasyon lahat ng stakeholder sa pagpili anong makina, anong sistema ang gagamitin sa 2025 (there must be participation among stakeholders in choosing the machine, the kind of system that will be used come 2025)," he added.

Garcia earlier called on the Comelec to retire the current VCMs and lease new ones for the conduct of smoother elections, following the numerous VCM glitches in various areas in the May 9 polls.

"Bandang huli itataktak mo rin ang makina. Bandang huli gagamitan mo rin ng electric fan yung makina dahil nag-iinit na, o medyo iti-tilt mo ng kaunti para matanggap ang balota," he said.

[Translation: In the end, you had to dislodge the machines, use an electric fan because they tend to overheat, or you had to tilt them just so they can receive the ballots.]

He said the allocation could go as high as ₱10 billion to lease around 100,000 machines.

Garcia surprised with chairmanship, vows impartiality

Garcia was recently appointed to head the poll body, months after his ad-interim appointment as commissioner was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments. He admitted that he did not expect that he would be appointed to the Comelec chairmanship, noting that he was even relaxing at the time his appointment papers were released.

He said, however, that he will remain impartial in fulfilling his duties, despite previously lawyering for politicians such as President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., former senators Manny Pacquiao and Ping Lacson, and former Manila mayor Isko Moreno, among others.

“Hindi po imposible at hindi naman po mahirap patunayan lalong lalo na sabi nga po sa Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility (It’s not impossible and it’s not hard to prove. Spider-Man himself said, with great power comes great responsibility),” he explained.

READ: After Comelec stint, Garcia recommends up to ₱10B budget to lease VCMs in next polls