Wednesday, September 18, 2019

6 voting centers non-operational as VCM malfunctions rise

CEBU. A vote-counting machine (VCM) undergoes final testing in this photo taken on May 10, 2019. (Photo by Arni Aclao/SunStar Cebu)

HALFWAY through the midterm National and Local Elections on Monday, May 13, six voting centers nationwide were found to be non-operational due to defective vote-counting machines (VCM) and Secure Digital (SD) cards.

A total of 1,501 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel, meanwhile, are serving as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) after teachers assigned to some polling precincts in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Bicol and Calabarzon failed to show up.

The mounting number of malfunctioning VCMs resulting in voter disenfranchisement was also reported by poll watchdog group Kontra Daya.

In its midday report, Kontra Daya disclosed that they have received 39 cases of errors or failure of voting due to defective machines.

"As of 12:00 noon today, Kontra Daya’s ground volunteers have monitored at least 39 cases of errors or failures resulting from malfunctioning vote counting machines (VCMs) nationwide," said Kontra Daya.

"Malfunctioning VCMs are a major cause of voter disenfranchisement due to delays and rejected ballots," it added.

It cited as an example the case of former vice president Jejomar Binay, who was temporarily unable to vote due to a malfunctioning VCM in his precinct.

"This number continues to rise as of now and does not include reports of VCM malfunctions reported on social media," said Kontra Daya.

In Metro Manila alone, the group said VCM errors or failures have been reported in precincts across the cities of Caloocan, Manila, San Juan, Malabon, Novaliches, Pasig, and Quezon City.

In Northern Luzon, VCM shutdowns were also reported in the following areas so far: Bambang East Elementary School in Nueva Vizcaya, and Tumaini, Isabela.

In Central Luzon, VCM problems were reported in the following areas: Barangay Libsong, West Lingayen, Pangasinan; San Miguel, Tarlac; Minuyan, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Talavera Elementary School, Nueva Ecija; and Ruperto Zubia Elementary School in Baler, Aurora.

In Southern Luzon, problematic VCMs were also reported in the Ibalon Elementary School, Legazpi City.

In the Visayas, VCM errors were reported in the precincts of Lawaan, Eastern Samar; and Mabolo Elementary School in Cebu City.

In Mindanao, manual voting was done due to VCM malfunctions in the precincts in Malabang, Lanao del Sur and Nuro, Upi, Maguindanao.

"The reported errors included machines shutting down, stopping, or refusing to start, stuck up ballots and/or voters’ receipts, and discrepancies in receipts generated," said Kontra Daya.

PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said, however, that the conduct of the midterm National and Local Elections as of Monday noon is generally peaceful.

There are a total of 36,675 voting centers nationwide. So far, six have been unable to conduct voting while at least 99 percent reported normal operations.

"Aside from some confusion, administrative delay and queuing during the opening hours of the elections, there were no major untoward incidents that disrupted the holding of election proper," Albayalde said in a briefing Monday.

As of 12 noon Monday, some 5,500 individuals have been arrested for violation of the Comelec-imposed gun ban nationwide. Authorities confiscated 4,618 firearms and 44,226 deadly weapons.

The PNP National Election Monitoring Action Center (NEMAC) reported that 234 persons were arrested in 100 recorded incidents of vote-buying.

The PNP also recorded 374 incidents of liquor ban violations involving 920 persons.

Albayalde said a total of 43 election-related incidents have been recorded, wherein 20 were killed, 24 wounded and 29 unharmed.

Three explosions, not four as the police reported earlier, have been recorded since Sunday evening.

The first explosion happened at about 10:04 p.m. of May 12, 2019 at a vacant lot in Purok Omar, Cotabato City. Initial findings show that there were two improvised explosive devices composed of 40mm that went off.

This incident was followed by two more explosions that took place at 1:05 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. on Monday, May 13, in Poblacion Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. One hand grenade was believed to have been thrown by unidentified motorcycle-riding men.

“All these incidents happened away from the polling places and so far, based on initial investigation they have no connection with the elections,” said Albayalde.

A shooting incident that happened outside a polling place in Panglima Estino, Sulu resulted in the wounding of five civilians and the burning of two civilian vehicles.

“The situation is under control and investigation is ongoing to identify the suspects,” said Albayalde.

“Our present level of operational readiness and vigilance will be maintained until the election process is completed,” he added.

In the previous three nationwide automated polls, there have also been cases of VCMs malfunctioning on Election Day.

VCM machine malfunctions have also been reported in the 2010 (205 VCMs); 2013 (171 VCMs); and 2016 (150 VCMs) elections. (With HDT/SunStar Philippines)


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