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PET allows use of 2010 ballot boxes; Comelec sees P200M savings

By Mikhail Flores, VERA Files

The Commission on Elections stands to save more than P200 million worth of taxpayers' money after the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has allowed it to re-use ballot boxes used in 2010.

In a resolution dated Dec. 4, the PET approved a petition filed by Comelec Law Department Director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra to use the ballot boxes covered by a protection order in connection with the protest filed by vice presidential candidate Manuel "Mar" Roxas III against Vice President Jejomar Binay.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, issued on Aug. 31, 2010 the  precautionary protection order (PPO) for the ballot boxes.

The PET  is freeing up 57,255 ballot boxes or three-fourths of the total 76,340 ballot boxes covered by the PPO.

Comelec has approved a budget of P290.21 million for the supply and delivery of 82,200 ballot boxes for the 2013 midterm elections. Only Smartmatic bought bidding documents for the ballot boxes as of Monday. Interested bidders have until this Friday to submit bids.

Based on computations, a ballot box costs P3,530.59.  With the PET decision, the Comelec need only buy 25,000 ballot boxes, which will cost P88 million, and will save up to P202 million.  Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said the savings will be used for other purchases related to next year's elections.

Comelec will be using the guidelines for the 2011 general elections in the Autonomous Regions in Muslim Mindanao in transferring the ballot boxes to be used next year.

Under the guidelines, the poll body will create a committee for each city or town where the ballot boxes will be retrieved.

The committee will be composed of the city or municipal treasurer who will sit as chairperson.

The election officer and the district supervisor of the Department of Education will act as vice chairperson and secretary.  The provincial election supervisor will serve as supervising officer in the towns.

The committee will then issue notices to the parties involved the PET case: Roxas, the protestant, and Binay, the protestee.

The committee will conduct an inventory of four ballot boxes where each will be opened one a time. The contents of three ballot boxes will be emptied and will be transferred to the fourth which will serve as committee box. The committee box will hold all the contents of the four boxes.

The committee box will be properly labeled and secured with padlocks and security seal. Comelec will then submit a collated report to the PET on the retrieval activities.

Aside from the use of ballot boxes, the PET allowed the transfer of the Election Management System (EMS) Server from the Smartmatic-Total Information Management warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna to the Comelec Main Office in Intramuros.

The high tribunal also allowed  the transfer of Information Tecnhology (IT) equipment to the Comelec-designated Hardware Acceptance Test (HAT) Center for maintenance procedures.

IT equipment includes printers, Universal Serial Bus (USB) General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) modems, laptop and desktop personal computers, modems, generator sets, servers, server packs, switches, uninterrupted power supply (UPS), firewalls and other racks.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

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