Comelec to complete vote counting machine tests next week

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Tests on vote counting machines stored in a warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna are expected to be completed in the next two weeks.

Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said a machine would have to pass the Hardware Acceptance Tests before the Comelec can officially receive them from Smartmatic.

“I’m really impressed with the development and I’d like to thank our warehouse provider and Comelec staff,” he said.  

“Smartmatic is closing ranks in making sure that the warehouse is in good shape.”

The Comelec is renting five buildings on a five-hectare land from Jam Liner in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for P68 million a year.

Organic forces from the Comelec and a police contingent are securing the warehouses, Bautista said.

Some 90,000 vote counting machines   are already in the Philippines and 6,000 units are in transit from Taiwan where Smartmatic manufactures them.

As of Feb. 4, 71,456 units are at the warehouse and the rest at the Bureau of Customs, Comelec records showed.  

Of these, 64,382 units have undergone tests.

Customs Commissioner Bert Lina has informed him that the release of the vote counting machines will be expedited, Bautista said.

“Processing is now almost automatic as soon as the machines arrive at the port and this is important in ensuring that the VCMs will get to the warehouse in time,” he said

During a guided tour for the media, Marlon Garcia, project manager of Smartmatic Philippines, said their personnel are able to test some 4,000 units of vote counting machines from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, although operations at the production area for Hardware Acceptance Tests (HAT) are not yet in full swing.

“For all the machines, we expect to finish HAT in the next two weeks,” he said.

“Why in the next two weeks? It’s because it is not only for HAT of machines but everything that is coming, as part of election consumables.”

It takes up to 25 minutes to do HAT on a machine,  Garcia said.

“From unpacking the machines, putting it on the table, turning it on, running the different diagnostics, scanning the ballots and then printing and filling all the forms and then putting the machines back in the boxes so they can be returned to the storage area,” he said.

Garcia said the vote counting machines undergo the hardware acceptance and accuracy tests at the highly secured production area.

The machines are subjected to a series of tests to ensure that the scanners are working properly, he added.

Garcia said the more stringent accuracy tests involve inserting 1,000 ballots into the machines to ensure that they comply with the 99.995 percent accuracy requirement of the    law.

“No VCM leaves the warehouse without passing these tests and that is how we ensure that the machines will read the votes accurately on election day,” he said.

Machines that did not pass the accuracy tests are sent to quarantine, where they are repaired and re-tested.

Once the machines have undergone hardware acceptance and accuracy tests, configuration of universal memory cards of the vote counting machines will be made based on the information uploaded by the Comelec on the Election Management System.

This data will later be used in programming each and every vote counting machine, depending on which polling precinct they would be assigned to.

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