A POWER outage in parts of northern Cebu and the long wait of voters in some polling precincts due to the malfunction of voter registration verification machines (VRVMs) marred the local elections on Monday, May 13.

There were also reports of disinformation, harassment and intimidation in Bogo City and Cebu City, including one reported by Cebu City election officer for the south district Marchel Sarno.

Several precincts in at least eight towns and cities in Cebu had VRVMs and vote counting machines (VCMs) that did not work properly or were not used at all, resulting in long lines of voters who had to wait for the voting to begin.

In Central Visayas, a total of 80 VCMs and 124 VRVMs malfunctioned.

Though they considered the problem with the machines their biggest challenge on Election Day, Acting Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 Regional Director Veronico Petalcorin said it did not hamper the election process that started at 6 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m.

“Less ra kaayo ang guba. Matan-awan nato, within the allowable percentage nga naay possibility nga maguba (the machine). Ang atoa (is) how fast are we nga maka-respond kung maguba kay dili man jud malikayan ang guba. Matan-awan nato nga paspas kaayo ang response bisan naguba na, nasulbad na nato. Mao na atong iinclude nang dapita (There were only a few machines that were damaged. We can see that it’s within the allowable percentage... It’s inevitable that some machines will not function and for us, it’s about how fast we can respond. We can see that our response was swift and in areas where the machines did not work, we were able to solve it. We should consider that, too),” he said in a press conference at the Regional Election Monitoring Action Center on Monday night.

Petalcorin added that of the 603 back-up VCMs they prepared, only 80 were used.

Even with the negative feedback from voters on their experience with the VRVMs, Petalcorin said the Comelec mgiht still use the machines in the next elections.

“There is no guarantee that the machine will not malfunction. The technology is great. It’s just that maybe our provider is not that updated yet,” he said.

Despite the glitches, Petalcorin said the elections in the region were “generally peaceful and successful.”

“We had a 100 percent success rate. With the active participation of the people, of our other government agencies, we can say our elections were successful,” he said.

He attributed the success to the well-prepared security personnel and the fact that there were no reports of Electoral Board (EB) members being harassed.

Even if the temperature on Election Day reached 34.9 degrees Celcius with the heat index reaching 44 degrees Celcius, Petalcorin said they expected an 80 percent voter turnout.

Meanwhile, there was no failure of elections in any town or city in the region, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas said.

Past 7 p.m., a blackout occurred in the towns of San Remigio, Daanbantayan and Medellin and in the City of Bogo.

Petalcorin assured that the power outage did not affect the canvassing in these areas as the VCMs’ batteries could last one whole day.

“Our ballots are not vulnerable even during a brownout because the electoral board members and the watchers have flash lights... The canvassing can continue,” he said.

Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) 2 general manager Lowell Belciña said the brownout occurred when an equipment at the substation of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in Talisay, Daanbantayan, Cebu was burned.

Other developments on Election Day were:

l Comelec pulled out Sarno from his post after he complained that he received threats on his life. Cebu City north district election officer Chauncey Boholst took over;

l A 72-year-old male voter from Barangay Pasil, Cebu City died shortly after casting his vote. He succumbed to cardiac arrest reportedly due to the intense heat; At least 22 other voters in the city lost consciousness in their respective polling places;

l Police investigated reports that the motorcycle of a tanod in Barangay Paril, Cebu City was burned;

l Some 480 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center were able to cast their votes; and

l A precinct in BangBang Elementary School in Cordova received 120 ballots intended for Bohol voters. (WBS, EOB, from AYB, AZLG, HBL, FMD & FVQ of SuperBalita Cebu)