Sen. Chiz Escudero said that a no-election scenario in 2016 is impossible even after serious concerns emerged following the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify a deal between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic for the repair and maintenance of 82,000 voting machines for next year’s national polls.
The High Court nixed the Comelec-Smartmatic deal amid allegations of indiscretion and abuse surrounding the awarding of the repair contract, but Escudero said the SC ruling will not impede the conduct of the 2016 elections since there were other options available to the poll body.
“Postponing the elections is not possible. Under the Constitution and even under our laws, elections cannot and should not be postponed,” Escudero said.
“Comelec has no power to do that. Their only mandate is to supervise elections in our country every three years. And precisely because elections happen only every three years, there is no reason for the Comelec not to do it effectively.”
Escudero, who heads the Senate Committee on Finance, said the best option for the Comelec was to bid out the contract anew as there is still enough time left to do so.
“Para sa akin, mag-bidding na sila at huwag nang umapela sa sa korte upang sa gayon ay mas magkaroon sila ng sapat na panahon para dumiskarte at gumalaw pa ng naaayon sa SC decision. Lalo na at unanimous ang desisyon ng korte, malamang hindi na ‘yan babaligtarin,” the senator explained.
According to Escudero, if Comelec would stick with the bidding process and procedures, there is still time to address the technical needs for operating the machines and even Congress has time to help the poll body if needed.
“May sapat pang panahon. Ngayon kung magkukulang sila ng pera, alam ko may savings pa ang Comelec na humigit kumulang dalawang bilyong piso; pwede nilang kunin dun. Kung may kailangan pa silang dagdag na gastusin, ipagbigay alam nila sa amin para sa lalong madaling panahon maaksyunan ng Kongreso at maibigay ang kinakailangang pondo para sa automated elections sa 2016,” Escudero said, as he dismissed the possibility of going back to manual elections next year in the face of the tribunal’s decision.