Glitches during VCM testing; won’t delay polls

(The Freeman) - May 6, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - At least nine vote counting machines (VCMs) in three cities and four towns in Cebu province malfunctioned during the final testing and sealing yesterday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) confirmed.

Ronnie Amistoso, provincial election assistant II, said two machines’ scanner and printer did not function in the cities of Naga and Mandaue, and one each in Talisay City, Boljoon, Argao, Pinamungajan and Sibonga. 

 There were also a few "minor" problems observed, especially when ballots are fed into the machine. The other defects reported were broken SD cards and non-functional batteries.

 In Dumanjug town, for instance, the machine did not accept some test ballots in the first attempt.

Amistoso said, however, that the rejection of some ballots upon first insertion is not a glitch of the machine but may be a human error. This is because the machine rejects the ballot when the ballot is inserted improperly.

 “It was just a minor glitch when the machine refused to count a sample ballot. The machine has been fixed already. It was able to recount or re-appreciate the ballots casted,” he said.

 In Oslob, an incorrect pin for the VCM was given but was corrected immediately.

 Lawyer Eliseo Labaria, acting Comelec-Cebu provincial election supervisor, said glitches like this can be addressed immediately because the Comelec has sufficient contingency VCMs and polling paraphernalia supplies and skilled technicians.

“Natural man na… expected man na nga naay mahitabo sama ana,” he said. 

Mandaue

These are also the same problems encountered in Mandaue City.

The city’s election officer, lawyer Ferdinand Gujilde, said four batteries for VCMs leaked but the issue was addressed immediately.

A total of 272 VCMs arrived in the city last Thursday.

Gujilde said the City Central School in Barangay Centro experienced power loss yesterday morning.

The Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) also noted SD cards were inserted improperly.

If a voting machine detects encircled marks and half-shades beside the name of the candidate, this means the machine is sensitive, he said.

"It's a positive development kay sensitive ang machine. Maka-detect siya. So like circle lang, gi-count. Katung dot wala," he added.

Gujilde said no VCMs in Mandaue needs replacement.

Lapu-lapu

Across the Mactan Channel, three of 31 VCMs experienced glitches but Comelec officials said the same are manageable.

One VCM encountered an error because storage B or the backup memory could not be detected during initialization.

Two other machines also encountered errors when sample ballots got stuck.

Overall, Comelec officer Benjie Dayondon considered the final testing and sealing of VCMs successful.

Cebu city

Comelec -7 Director Jose Nick Mendros said the machines were sealed and tested successfully and are ready for May 9 albeit minor glitches yesterday. 

The glitches were encountered in the city’s South District, Mendros said.

South District election officer Michael Sarno received minor problems like paper jam, instances of official ballots rejected by the VCM, and unreadable SD card, among others.

Mendros clarified the test ballots that were not accepted by the VCMs were fake ballots, an initiative to prove that the VCMs would not accept fake ballots.

Also, the VCMs of a certain precinct will not accept official ballots of other precincts.

The most important thing, Mendros said, is that the VCMs “accurately reads” the votes cast.

If there would be instances that the VCM would not reflect the choices of the voter, Mendros said the person has the right to file a protest with the BEI.

“The very purpose of the final testing and sealing is to show to you nga yung machine nati accurate yung reading niya,” he added.

As to the possibility of non-functional VCMs, Mendros said there are 158 contingency VCMs that will be placed at the provincial hub at the Comelec province.

“Replacement ballots natin meron yang roles na if the ballot will be rejected for reasons not attributable to the voters, the BEI will give him another chance. One chance lang,” he said.

As to the voter turnout, Mendros said this year would have higher turnout compared to previous elections.

Accident

In Toledo City, a Fuso Canter van loaded with VCMs rammed into a water hydrant and a tree by the roadside after avoiding a 10-wheeler truck but the no one was hurt and the VCMs were safe. —/JMO (FREEMAN)

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