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article imageFirst Philippines automated election suffers technical glitches

By Leo Reyes     May 4, 2010 in Politics
The billion-peso automated election project of the Philippine government is facing a serious technical problem when the vote counting machines failed to count votes for some candidates during the mock-up polls conducted in some areas of Metro Manila.
Less than a week before election day, the first Philippine automated election is in danger of being postponed or scrapped altogether if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its private partner Smartmatic cannot remedy the glitches that came up when counting machines failed to count the votes of local candidates.
The glitches were discovered when mock elections were conducted in some selected areas of Metro Manila and Mindoro province.
In Makati City the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in some precincts during the mock-up polls did not count votes for some candidates, fueling speculations that the machines were programmed to favor certain candidates.
In Taguig City, congressional candidate Angelito “Jett” Reyes claimed PCOS machines used in the mock elections failed to read his votes, raising fears these were tampered to favor certain candidates.
Reyes noted that in last Monday's testing and sealing of the automated equipment, only votes for incumbent Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga, who is running for congressman, and his team were read by the machines, while votes cast for him and his brother, Marc, who is running for councilor, were not read. The problem was uncovered when the automated count did not match the parallel manual count.
In Pateros, incumbent Pateros Mayor Joey Medina, who is seeking another term, reported that half of the PCOS machines that were tested for the whole town printed incorrect results.
Smartmatic, the company that supplied the machine and the technology for the automated elections, said the problem was traced to defective memory cards which they promised to replace by Thursday.
Some of the 82,200 machines tested on Monday failed to read the names of candidates, forcing a recall of the software used, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.
"Right now we are assuming that all of the machines were affected. We have stopped the testing and are pulling out all memory cards for (re)configuration," Jimenez told reporters.
He sought to allay fears being aired in the local press that this could lead to a failure of elections, saying that technicians would be able to fix the glitch before 50 million voters cast their ballots on Monday.
“Postponement of election is the only remedy to prevent a failure of election,” said lawyer Romulo Macalintal amid nationwide reports of vote machine glitches, fueling fears the count could descend into chaos.
Macalintal said the Commission on Elections is authorized under Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code to reset the May 10 polls to a later date.
“Under the present situation, a 15-day postponement would be reasonable to give time for Comelec to print additional forms for manual tally and manual canvass,” he said, adding: “This is not the time to blame anybody but time to solve this serious problem.”
Candidates and other election watchdogs echoed Macalintal's proposal to reset the election to a later date in order to give more time for the technical people to fix the PCOS machines.
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