THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that as of the last day of the end-to-end testing of 75 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, not one was reported to have failed.

“Lab test is going very well. We also expect the field test to do just as good as well. With the assessment of those who performed the tests, almost sure na tayo na automated. Hindi pa natin masabi kasi minsan isusubo mo na lang, mahuhulog pa,” said Comelec chairman Jose Melo.

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Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who heads the steering committee on automation, shared that so far, the lab test indicates that the end-to-end system works.

“So far all indicators are that end-to-end system works meaning to say the ballots were read, the votes were counted, the data transmitted by the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines were transmitted to the canvassing server and the server for the political parties,” Larrazabal said.

He furthered that the two transmission systems -- through a mobile network and a broadband global area network (BGAN) -- to be used for the 2010 elections were also implemented in the lab tests.

The lab test performed on the machines will then be replicated on the field test that will begin on Wednesday, January 27.

The field test will be conducted in 10 polling precincts around the country. These 10 precincts are located in five areas namely Pateros and Taguig City in the National Capital Region; Bakun, Benguet in Luzon; Naga City, Cebu in Visayas; and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato in Mindanao.

Printing of ballots

The printing of 800,000 test and voters' education ballots has also started Monday.

“(The) 25th is the start of the printing process that includes the printing of the test ballots, the modifications of the ballot face and other preparations necessary for the main production,” said Larrazabal.

Out of the four printers that will be used for printing, only one printer is installed and being used as of Monday, confirmed Melo. By Thursday, all four printers will be installed.

But Larrazabal assured that the four printers are already with the National Printing Office (NPO) but are “still being arranged.”

The printing of sample ballots is targeted to end on January 29, Friday.

“The test (ballots) may not include some security features that will be included in the official ballots. It's actually a dry run of the run of the official ballot,” added the commissioner.

On January 30, the official ballots to be used for the 2010 elections will be printed.

The number of official ballots will correspond to the number of registered voters excluding those who registered during the extended registration. As of January 15, registered voters have totaled to 50,723,734.

Prelates’ concerns

Meanwhile, the poll body is ready to address the concerns aired by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The CBCP, in its pastoral statement released Sunday, called on Filipinos to keep a watchful eye on the electoral process and the implementation of the new automated election system (AES).

“At this late hour there are still many questions regarding the AES that revolve around the readiness of personnel and equipment as well as the readiness of the electorate in the use of the system,” the statement read.

CBCP called on each and every citizen to help in voters' education regarding the new system and the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Commissioner Larrazabal said the concerns of the CBCP are being addressed and the poll body will be submitting to them a report to explain the solutions.

He shared that the commission was already invited by the bishops' organization last week and Comelec has already updated them on the upcoming elections.

“There were some concerns that are expected and would be expected but these are being addressed. What's important is that we were able to show them the updates and we opened the lines of communication,” the commissioner said.

He also stressed the importance of airing out a concern regarding automation so that the poll body can act on it.

For his part, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said the elections body remains “confident” since all their physical needs are here in the country.

He further said they will implement manual elections in case the automation process will not push through. “We will implement manual elections.”

CBCP to candidates, voters

The CBCP has also asked 2010 candidates to serve the nation honestly and hold a sincere campaign in the coming elections.

“They should not campaign to manipulate the perceptions of the people but to help them to make good choices for the sake of the country. They are to present their platforms and convictions rather than attack others.”

The religious body furthered that good public leaders will only depend on how the voters would choose their candidates.

It reminded that survey results and political advertisements are not the basis of a candidate's ability to serve the country well. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)