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Despite Technical Glitches: Cebu bests 3 cities in latest mock poll

Smarmatic technicians try out the Broadband Global Area Network satellite antenna during the mock polls held in the mountain barangay of Mabini. FERDINAND EDRALIN

CEBU, Philippines - Of four cities in the country selected to participate in a Comelec mock election to further test the automated poll process expected to be used in the May 10 election, Cebu City was the first to successfully transmit the certificates of canvass to the Comelec central office in Manila.

The transmission was not as quick as anticipated, though, as technical glitches caused delays in sending the results. The delays were, however, still within the allowable time, prompting the Comelec to consider yesterday’s exercise as a success.

Fluctuations in signals were blamed for the delays in transmitting the results.

Aside from the minor glitches, there were also a few complaints from participants, mostly unrelated to the technical aspect of the automation process, such as the smallness of the size of the text used on the ballots, making them hard to read for elderly citizens.

The other cities that participated in the exercise were Taguig City, Davao City and Baguio City.

The exercise in Cebu City was conducted specifically in the mountain barangay of Mabini precisely to test the efficiency of the polling machines in remote areas where electronic signals may not be as strong as in the urban centers.

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As anticipated, fluctuating signals briefly delayed transmission of election results from the Mabini Integrated Schools to the City Board of Canvassers and two other servers

The Board of Election Inspectors in clustered precincts 0667a, 0668a and 0669a in Mabini opened at 8 a.m. with 40 actual voters from the barangay and 10 private sector volunteers participating.

The whole process — from registration, claiming of ballots, shading and feeding of ballots to the Precinct Count Optical Scanners or PCOS took only more than an hour with each voter averaging three to five minutes of voting time.

The poll closed at 9:20 a.m. and by 9:39 a.m. the BEIs started transmitting data to the City Board of Canvassers at City Hall, the Central Server of the Comelec in Manila and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas.

Weak signals made the first three attempts fail, prompting the Comelec and poll automation contractor Smartmatic to transmit data manually.

By 9:50 a.m. the City Board of Canvassers started receiving the data and immediately thereafter the machine started transmitting successfully to the central Comelec server in Manila.

But the signal failed again, prompting a switch to the so-called BGAN or Broadband Global Network Area satellite antenna.

Lionel Marco Castillano, Cebu provincial election supervisor, said the BGAN serves as a last resort if transmission fails using the mobile network signal.

He said Mabini is in a remote area so it was to be expected that the exercise would encounter network problems like what happened.

Smartmatic regional administration assistant Faith Tablado blamed the people who were standing around the machines while transmission was ongoing for the interference.

She explained that cameras, cellphones and other electronic or metallic items within the vicinity get to share the same network bandwidth, hence the interference.

She assured that during the actual elections, only the BEIs and the Smartmatic technician will be allowed near the machine while transmission is ongoing to avoid interference.

Castillano said these problems should not be cause for worry because it will just delay transmission but will leave the results or data intact until transmission is eventually completed.

By 10:39 a.m. all transmissions were finished.

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance represented by Regional Trial Court Judge Gabriel T. Ingles said the new system is generally okay except for the problem of senior voters having a hard time reading the ballots because of the fine print.

Cebu City election officers Marchel Sarno and Edwin Cadungog said they were congratulated by Comelec officials in Manila because of the four cities that simultaneously conducted mock elections starting at 8 a.m. yesterday, Cebu City was the first to submit their certificate of canvass report to the Comelec’s central server at 10:05 a.m.

Cadungog said that aside from the results of the electronics counting, the Comelec will also conduct manual counting of the vote’s casts in the ballots, although this exercise was not done yesterday.

Aside from Mabini, a similar mock election was held in barangay Bulacao with a similar number of volunteer voters.

Of the 50 persons who participated in the mock elections in Bulacao, only 49 ballots were scanned by the PCOS because one of the voters intentionally made unauthorized markings to test the accuracy of the machine.

At exactly 9:11 a.m., the Board of Election Inspectors in Bulacao, using a modem, successfully transmitted the election returns to the City Board of Canvassers. -/JST   (FREEMAN NEWS)

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