Postponed elections loom in certain areas
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2016 - 9:00am

Ballot printing put off for one more week  

MANILA, Philippines - Postponement of elections in some areas looms as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has again delayed for one week the scheduled printing of ballots due to compatibility problems in the systems.

Such a scenario was raised yesterday by Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim as the 90-day national campaign period begins today.

Lim said the scheduled printing of official ballots – supposedly scheduled yesterday – was reset to Feb.15. 

But Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said another week of deferment of the printing of ballots would not delay the elections.

It was the third time ballot printing was postponed. The Comelec’s original schedule was Jan. 26. It was moved to Feb. 1 and later to Feb. 8.

Lim said that with the deferment of the printing of ballots, Comelec timelines would “definitely be affected.”

The delay, he added, would also affect the “pre-election logical accuracy test” and the “packing of the machines” among other procedures.

“The worst case scenario is we are not able to configure the machines and deploy them on time and if that happens, the elections in some areas will not happen on May 9,” he pointed out.

Lim said the Comelec is re-doing the “trusted build” of the election management system (EMS), which serves as the brain of the automated election system (AES).

The trusted build is the firmware used for the final configuration of machines, final design of the ballots and the data that would be used for the AES.

The EMS provides the “ballot face” as it contains vital information like the names of candidates, ballot serial numbers and specific information about polling precincts where the ballots would be used.

He noted that while the Denver-based SLI Global Solutions was doing certification of the source codes of EMS and the consolidated and canvassing system (CCS) and vote counting machines (VCM), a compatibility issue was found in CCS which was provided by the Smartmatic-Total Information Management System.

No delay in polls

Despite the detection of the compatibility issue and the delay in ballot printing, Bautista said he is confident there would be no postponement of the polls.

“It will just be one week delay. It can turn out to be a blessing in disguise because I think we have more flexibility in designing the ballot face. That will enable us to have a shorter ballot,” he said.

The poll chief maintained that “having a shorter ballot is beneficial in several respects, first in terms of cost, in terms of paper, ink, also in terms of the speed of the machine in printing the ballots.”

Bautista added the delay also gives the Comelec the opportunity to cleanse the ballots of candidates who have pending nuisance proceedings, especially in the senatorial race.

He stressed it was good that the problem was traced at this point because such would already be addressed come election day.

For her part, SLI director for operations Traci Mapps said another trusted build should be done as “there was a problem found in the CCS.”

“The findings were that something needs to be fixed that affected the common code used in both EMS and CCS,” she said. 

It was also the SLI that did the certification for the automated election system used by the Comelec in 2010 and 2013 polls.

But Mapps gave assurance the SLI did not find any malicious code in the source codes.

“All the critical and major issues have been closed. We conducted functional testing and we had not found any other issues at this point,” she added.  

Campaign season begins

Bautista also reminded candidates to strictly follow election rules as the campaign season begins today.

“We need to remind candidates – the difference now is that the meter starts to run in respect of their campaign expenditures.   Make sure that your campaign expenses will not exceed the limits,” he said.

The Comelec had required candidates to take down their unlawful propaganda materials or these would be charged against their campaign spending limit.

The 60-day campaign period for local candidates, meanwhile, runs from March 25 to May 7.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, for his part, called on voters to be discerning in choosing their candidates.

“I hope that voters will not tolerate the candidates that they like. The problem is we do not mind a candidate to commit violation if we like them but we cannot stand those whom we do not like. Be a wise voter,” he said.

Jimenez also urged candidates to avoid committing Bautista’s three “mortal sins” – posting of campaign materials on trees, plants and other places outside the designated common poster areas; excessive use of plastic and other unrecycable materials and irresponsible disposal of campaign materials.  

Security assured

The 160,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) is prepared for the task of maintaining peace and order during the 90-day election campaign period.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said greater attention would be given to areas identified as “hot spots” by the Comelec.

He said candidates and their supporters are assured of safety on the road and at campaign venues.

“This is stated in the command memorandum circular. We will ensure that during the campaign, it would be safe for candidates to move around, especially in critical areas,” he said.

But he said all candidates must inform or notify the local PNP units of their activity or of any request for security during their campaign sorties or miting de avance. With Cecille Suerte Felipe

 

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