Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Faulty VRVMs, VCMs plague midterm elections

CEBU. Closing procedure of the voting process in one of the clusters at Cebu City Central School in Barangay San Antonio, Cebu City. (Arni Aclao)

THE malfunctioning of voters registration verification machines (VRVMs) and defective vote counting machines (VCMs) were some of the problems encountered in Cebu City and some parts of Cebu during the midterm elections last Monday, May 13.

But despite technical glitches, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 downplayed the problems.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the proportion of faulty machines was small compared to the total of 85,000 VCMs nationwide. Between 400 and 600 VCMs were found to be defective nationwide, Jimenez said during a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center Forum Tent last Monday night.

“So it seems to me it was still within range. The reason it is so jarring is that we had fewer incidents in 2016,” he said. “These are the VCMS we used in 2016. I cannot rule out that possibility that these malfunctioned because of that.”

PRO 7 Director Brigadier General Debold Sinas said the machines’ technical problems did not the public stop voters from casting their votes.

In Cebu City, Chauncey Boholst, acting election officer of Comelec Cebu City north district, said 90 percent of the VRVMs in the north’s 46 barangays malfunctioned.

In the south district, acting election officer Marchel Sarno said around 80 percent of the VRVMs in the 34 barangays in the south were not used because these were defective.

Comelec used Cebu as a pilot area to introduce the VRVM, which uses biometrics to identify voters.

Poll officials, though, admitted that 85 percent of the machines were defective and not functional. Because of this, voting was delayed in several clustered precincts.

Comelec officials said these were immediately addressed by resorting to the manual verification of voters identity through the use of the Election Day Computerized Voters’ List (ECVL).

During the final testing and sealing of the VCMs last Saturday, May 11, not less than 40 machines were defective, officials said.

According to Liza Orongan, Department of Education supervising official in Bogo City, the delay was not a major problem because they immediately referred to the ECVL.

“We were told during our seminar that if a technical problem occurs, we have to refer to Plan B, which is to verify voters manually through ECVL,” she said.

But while they may have addressed the problem, Orongan said some voters had to wait two hours before they could cast their votes.

She attributed this to the high influx of voters between 7 and 9 a.m., which made it difficult for the nine Electoral Board members to organize.

Things, though, took a more positive turn in the afternoon as most voters were senior citizens availing themselves of accessible polling places established by the Comelec.

Areas where machine glitches were reported:

| In Cebu City, some VRVMs at the City Central Elementary School failed to recognize voters’ data, passwords and usernames logged in by the Board of Election Inspector chairman. At the Lahug Elementary School, only five VRVMs in 30 clustered precincts functioned. A paper jam in the VCM of one clustered precinct in Barangay Cogon Ramos caused a minor delay in the voting.

| Several VCVM malfunctioned at the Mandaue City Central School past 6 a.m.; voters from barangays Mantuyong, alang-Alang and Cambaro were delayed from voting. A defective VCM was also reported in Cabancalan Elementary School. The VCM suddenly shut down at 7:45 a.m.

| In Liloan, five clustered precincts encountered failed VCVMs

| In Bogo City, around 37 of the 366 polling precincts experienced technical problems, but acting election officer Dominic Ian Marigomen said this was just a minor issue. At the Cayang Elementary School in Bogo, the conduct of polls officially started 15 minutes late because its three VCMs failed to log-in.

| In San Fernando, acting election officer Mario Oville said all clustered precincts in the town suffered delay because the password used to open the VRVMs was wrong.

* In San Francisco, one of the 39 VCMs overheated after operating since 6 a.m., acting election officer Benedicto Santiago said. The town has 39 clustered precincts, each assigned with its own VCM.

| In Tuburan, scanners of the VCMs in Sandayong Elementary School stopped working at 10 a.m. A few hours later, the scanner of the VCM in Bakyawan Elementary School also stopped working. (RTF, JOB, PAC, JJL, from AZLG, AYB, FMD and GGM of SuperBalita Cebu, SunStar Philippines)


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