Comelec ready for 2013 automated elections

COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes yesterday assured congressmen that the poll body is now ready for the combined automated congressional and local elections in May 2013.

“We can tell you that we have enough funds for next year’s elections,” Brillantes told a House appropriations subcommittee chaired by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr.

He was responding to concerns raised by Andaya and appropriations committee chairman Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya about Comelec’s funding problem Brillantes himself raised a month ago in another House hearing.

The Comelec chief had complained that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had cut the commission’s 2013 budget from P13 billion to P8 billion.

He said Comelec needed the additional P5 billion, and that if the funds were not restored, the poll body would be forced to conduct a manual election.

Brillantes threatened to resign if the Comelec would have no choice but to go back to manual voting.
Abaya informed Brillantes and other Comelec officials that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told him two weeks ago that they have already solved the commission’s funding problem.

Brillantes confirmed this, saying Abad has assured him that the P5 billion would be returned to augment Comelec’s P8.4-billion budget for next year.

“The P5 billion would come from this year’s Comelec appropriations, savings and other sources. So yes, we have enough funds for the 2013 elections, including about P3 billion for the October voting for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officers, if it will not be postponed,” he said.

Brillantes said the poll body could now begin the bidding process for various services needed for the 2013 polls, such as the printing of ballots and other election materials.

If the October vote would be deferred, Brillantes said the Comelec will have savings of at least P3 billion by the end of next year.

He noted that there are numerous bills pending in the House proposing to move the barangay and SK balloting to a later date.

Several congressmen led by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez wants the October vote postponed to 2015, saying the nation may not be able to afford two elections in six months.

Rodriguez said the billions that could be saved from postponing the October voting could be used for roads, school buildings, health centers, and similar basic infrastructure and social services.

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