Faulty PCOS machines, missing names mar polls
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Defective precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, ballot switching, delay in the delivery of election paraphernalia, disenfranchised voters, and oversized ballots marred voting in parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, yesterday.

Reports said voting was delayed in at least 100 polling precincts nationwide due to malfunctioning PCOS machines.

However, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said these were “minor” technical glitches.

“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,” he said.

Out of the 78,000 PCOS machines distributed to polling precincts nationwide, Brillantes said at least 100 malfunctioned as of 2 p.m. yesterday.

The poll body was expecting around 200 defective PCOS machines, lower than the 400 that malfunctioned in the 2010 presidential elections.

Brillantes said President Aquino and Binay had no problem casting their votes in Tarlac and Makati City, respectively.

Glitches inevitable, isolated

Asked what could have triggered the PCOS malfunction, Smartmatic-Asia Pacific president Cesar Flores 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.

On the reported proliferation of pre-shaded ballots, Flores said each PCOS machine was programmed to read only ballots of a certain precinct.

“If you send the wrong ballot, the machine won’t read it,” he said.

Palace officials, meanwhile, expressed confidence the reported glitches in the PCOS machines were minimal and would not affect the outcome of the polls.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters the reported glitches were isolated cases. Poll watchdog Kontra Daya said the widespread cases of malfunctioning PCOS machines resulted in long queue of voters in various polling precincts.             â€œTaxpayers paid P1.8 billion for these PCOS machines. The fact that we are seeing numerous cases of PCOS failures only underscores the long-held observation that we were duped by Smartmatic,” Gani Tapang, Kontra Daya convenor, said. Tapang said the Comelec had allowed the electorate to be short-changed when it allowed the PCOS machines to be used in the 2013 polls.

Ballot switching, oversized ballots

Poll watchdogs said ballot switching occurred in clustered precincts in Barangay Gabi Elementary School in Compostela Valley and in Rizal Elementary School in Baguio City.

Ballots supposed to be delivered to Compostela Valley were sent to Baguio City.

Brillantes said they have yet to determine the reason behind the switching of ballots.

Reports said ballots were rejected by PCOS machines at Central Elementary School in Barangay San Dionisio in Parañaque City.

The delivery of election paraphernalia in barangays San Pablo, Pedro, Guitran, and Maralag in Duminang town in Zamboanga del Sur; and Hulo Elementary School in Mandaluyong City was delayed.

Meanwhile, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) yesterday received reports of oversized ballots in some polling areas in Baguio City and Antipolo City.

PPCRV media and communications director Ana de Villa-Singson said board of election inspectors (BEIs) at the Quezon Elementary School in Baguio City and at the Daligwan Elementary School in Antipolo City had to cut the ballots in order to fit them into the PCOS machines.

The poll watchdog also received reports that pre-shaded ballots were allegedly widespread in Barangay Siksikan, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Brillantes said the Comelec would probe reports of pre-shaded ballots.

The PPCRV said polling precinct 64-B was “missing” at the Batangas National High School in Lipa, Batangas.

Another election watchdog based at the University of the Philippines-Diliman said a majority of the reports they received from the field noted problems of defective PCOS machines.

Editha Jimenez, coordinator of Automated Election System Watch, said aside from being defective, the PCOS machines were delivered late in some areas. The group also noted power outage and vote-buying as among the problems noted by their team.

Jimenez said some reports were still being verified.

In Manila, the PPCRV said many voters in District 5 failed to find their names in the certified voters’ list.

In Xavier School in San Juan City, there were also reports of disenfranchisement of voters.

The PPCRV said the PCOS machine in Barangay San Isidro, Makati City bogged down, prompting voters to leave their ballots with the BEIs.

In Novaliches, Quezon City, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo allegedly brought sample ballots inside the polling precincts.

“You can bring in personal ballots to the precinct but you cannot give away (sample ballots to other voters). That is a violation,” De Villa-Singson said.

In Poblacion Plaridel, Bulacan all the ballots did not have serial numbers, while all ballots in Northsideview in Quezon City were allegedly rejected by the PCOS machine.

In Batangas, about 95 percent of the PCOS machines malfunctioned in Lipa.

Some areas, particularly Tanauan, reportedly experienced power outage, prompting the BEIs to resort to manual elections.

Technical errors

Senior Superintendent Rosauro Acio, director of the Batangas provincial police office, said 14 PCOS machines experienced technical errors in the towns of Ibaan, Lemery, San Pascual, San Nicolas, Mabini, Laurel, Padre Garcia and Nasugbu and in Batangas City.

The glitches delayed the voting in these areas but the machine provider was able to address the glitches.

“They are now operational. The provider has spare parts,” Acio said.

Poll watchdog Rock the Vote noted that voting was stopped at 9:50 a.m. in some areas in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan after the PCOS machines rejected the ballots.

It also reported that only one machine was working in Indang while a power outage stalled voting in Dasmariñas, both in Cavite.

In the Bicol region, 29 PCOS machines malfunctioned.

The rains and the long queues failed to discourage voters in Cagayan Valley from participating in the country’s second automated polls.

Minor glitches in PCOS operations were reported in some areas in Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan. Two persons were also arrested in Isabela for violation of the liquor ban. Voting was generally orderly in Ilocos Sur save for reports of defective PCOS machines in some polling precincts in Sta. Cruz town and marking pens that ran out of ink in Caoayan.

Despite the problems, voting went on with the ballots already marked by the voters kept in a box as election officials waited for a new machine to be delivered.

Ten PCOS machines were also reported to have malfunctioned in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, although these were functioning during testing.

Gov. Aurelio Umali expressed alarm over reports of defective PCOS machines, noting that this might not reflect the true will of the Novo Ecijanos. Twenty PCOS machines reportedly malfunctioned in eight towns in Bataan, although these were immediately replaced or fixed by 10 a.m.

In Bacolod City, voters complained of defective PCOS machines and marking pens, overcrowded precincts, pre-shaded ballots, and missing names of voters. Voting in some areas in Caraga region was delayed after PCOS machines malfunctioned hours after polling precincts opened yesterday, while PCOS machines in four towns in La Union also suffered minor glitches.

Voting at a precinct in Barangay Port Puyohan Central Elementary School in Butuan City was stopped at 5:30 p.m. after technicians failed to fix the PCOS machine.

The same problem happened in Barangay Sikatuna, also in Butuan City, and in some precincts in 17 rural villages in Caraga region.

Vote-buying was also reported in Butuan. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy, Artemio Dumlao, Celso Amo, Non Alquitran, Charlie Lagasca, Ben Serrano, Jun Elias, Danny Dangcalan, Mayen Jaymalin, Teddy Molina, Rhodina Villanueva, Manny Galvez

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