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article imageFaulty vote counting machines mar Philippine elections

By Leo Reyes     May 13, 2013 in Politics
Malfunctioning precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, late and wrong delivery of election paraphernalia, poor communication signal in some precincts and disenfranchised voters, among others, marred the 2013 elections in the Philippines.
Three years after the first computerized election in 2010, the Philippines is still struggling with constitutionally-mandated electronic vote counting system that leaves much to be desired.
Over 50 million Filipinos or about 50% of the country's population are registered voters and more than 70% of these voters cast their votes on election day.
More than 18,000 elective posts are up for grabs on election day and certainly, these number necessitates the use of electronic counting machines for fast and accurate count of the votes.
The 2013 midterm election covers candidates for senators, congressmen, including provincial and municipal officials.
This year's election ended at 7:00 p.m. Monday, May 13 and proclamation of winners are expected in 48 hours or less.
Generally the election was relatively peaceful and orderly, except for some precincts that reported election offences including vote-buying, intimidation, and few reports of violent incidents in known election hotspots all over the country.
Reports of delayed voting were generally caused by malfunctioning machines in about 100 precincts all over the country as of 2:00 p.m. on election day.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the malfunctioning PCOS machines can be considered as “minor” technical glitches.
One common complaint from voters is the rejection by the PCOS machine of the ballot which caused unnecessary delay in the election process.
“If the ballot is rejected, it does not necessarily mean that there is an error. You just have to re-orient it until it is accepted by the machine, like what happened to Vice President Jejomar Binay. At first his ballot was rejected, but after another attempt it was accepted by the machine,” the Comelec chairman said
Earlier, Smartmatic Asia, the company that provided the PCOS machines for the 2010 and 2013 elections said that about 200-300 machines may have to be replaced due to various technical problems.
"Throughout the day, we will reach 200 or 300 (replacements). Of course, it's uncomfortable. If that happens, everybody would feel that the precinct is collapsing. But that's more or less the nature of an automated elections in any country," said Cesar Flores, head of Smartmatic Asia.
Scene in a typical precinct in the Philippines during elections
Scene in a typical precinct in the Philippines during elections
Flores said there are "intrinsic limitations" in running the elections as he plead for public understanding.
"You cannot expect them to be experts on how to fix machines. There are intrinsic limitations to running the elections. That has to be understood by the people," Flores said.
In the earlier report by, Flores was was asked about what triggered the malfunctioning of the machines and he said: “Sometimes the machines, sometimes human factor.”
“It’s very common, the ballot is so large. If many ballots are inserted rapidly into the PCOS machines, and they fall at the bottom of the box, that will create a jam so the ballots will be rejected,” he said. “We are talking about more than 78,000 machines distributed in more than 40,000 locations in 7,000 islands, so it’s natural that there’s going to be some problems.” Flores, however, said the technical glitches were inevitable.
“Most of the failure happens during the final testing and sealing so there’s time to replace,” he added.
Comelec chairman Brillantes said, overall "the elections went well although there were minor glitches reported in some PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines."
The National Board of Canvassers is set to convene Tuesday morning for the official canvassing of the votes for the 2013 midterm elections. Winners will be proclaimed shortly thereafter.
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