Senate grants Comelec additional ₱500M for 2024 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — An additional ₱500 million to the proposed 2024 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) hurdled the Senate plenary on Monday as the poll body sought more funding to prepare for the 2025 midterm elections.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel said the House of Representatives, in its final version of the budget bill, allocated ₱27.1 billion for the poll body.

It was lower than the ₱27.3 billion under the 2024 National Expenditure Program, but the agency actually proposed ₱43.9 billion during the budget call, Pimentel added.

According to the Senate committee report, the Comelec has been allocated ₱27.6 billion as its spending plan next year.

"Ang talagang hinihingi the preparation for 2025 (elections), 'yong ₱5.96 billion man lang i-restore," said Sen. Imee Marcos, the Comelec's budget sponsor. "Those are (for) the procurement of materials, the IT systems, and so on. They are praying that this be reconsidered."

Marcos said the ₱500 million increase given by the Senate committee will be for the procurement of supplies, materials, and forms amounting to ₱400 million and warehousing of automated counting machines estimated at ₱100 million.

Comelec officials, through Marcos, said ₱39.68 billion is the estimated cost to hold the 2025 midterm polls. Of the overall amount, ₱22.9 billion is pegged to be spent for preparations starting next year.

It would cover expenses for supplies, materials, utilities, communications, professional services, and ICT machinery among others, she said.

The senator also said ₱19.8 billion would be set aside for the lease of automated counting machines or approximately ₱155,000 per machine, with contingencies of 11,613 units.

"That's why lease without option to purchase is being recommended because with all the expenses that we've made in the past, hindi na sila magamit, di na updated, mas maigi upahan na lang kada election," she said.

[Translation: That's why lease without option to purchase is being recommended because with all the expenses that we've made in the past, we cannot use them because they are not updated, it's better to lease the machines every election.]

Filipino voters will cast ballots twice in 2025. The Comelec will conduct the midterm polls in May, then the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in December.

Marcos said the Comelec is projecting that the poll body would need as many as 116,000 automated counting machines for 71 million voters in 2025.