Voting machines worked in 98% of Cebu precincts

KD Suarez
Voting machines worked in 98% of Cebu precincts
Around 50 vote counting machines malfunctioned across 4,066 clustered precincts in Cebu province

CEBU CITY, Philippines – About 50 faulty machines in parts of Cebu City and Province kept thousands of voters in line for longer than they wanted on Monday, May 9, in the country’s third automated elections.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to confirm its final tally of the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) that malfunctioned because of the heat, among other reasons.

Cebu and all its cities have 4,066 clustered precincts. If Comelec confirms that no more than 50 VCMs failed to work properly, that would mean that more than 98% of Cebu’s machines did work. (READ: Ballots arrive in Cebu City; poll preparations on track)

In Cebu City alone, 24 VCMs had to be replaced, out of the 837 that were sent to the polling places. These 24 failed to read ballots.

In Abellana National School, which served voters in Barangay Sambag II, the VCM sent to Precinct 294 bogged down twice, the first time at 8:40 am and again at 11:40 am.

Every time a ballot was fed, the VCM would display: “Unable to scan the ballot.”

At least 89 voters signed a waiver that they would leave it up to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) to feed their ballots into the machine, once it was fixed.

Comelec delivered a replacement VCM at 12:40 pm.

The same problem surfaced in Mandaue City, where 9 VCMs were replaced. Election Officer Ferdinand Gujilde said the defective VCMs did not read the ballots and did not issue any voter’s receipt.

“So far so good, except for some problematic VCMs,” Atty Gujilde said. “We have replaced nine problematic VCMs with contingency VCMs.” The malfunctions delayed voting by one to two hours.

All 272 VCMs in Mandaue passed the final testing and sealing last May 6.

But if the VCMs were exposed to the elements, technical problems would not be impossible, said Gujilde during a press conference.

Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Eliserio Labaria said that Comelec will consolidate the reports about faulty VCMs.

Where did reports of faulty VCMS come from? These areas included parts of Compostela, Carmen, Catmon, Liloan and Danao City in the fifth district; five clustered precincts in Talisay City; and Cebu City.

“If you will notice, ubay ubay gyud ang naguba ron compared sa last na election (more machines had problems now than in the last election in Cebu City). But when you consider that we have 837 clustered precincts in Cebu City, that’s a low number,” said Comelec north district election officer Atty Edwin Cadungog.

What is needed, he said, is for VCMs to undergo endurance tests to make sure that these will not overheat. He pointed out that during the final testing and sealing, only 10 test ballots were fed into the VCMs, to see if these were accurate.

On Election Day, each VCM is used by about 800 voters.

“It is one of the areas that need to be improved,” he said.

But human problems, not just mechanical ones, marked the elections as well.

In some areas, voters who had failed to submit their biometrics to Comelec tried to vote. They weren’t allowed.

Lucricia Geronda, overall coordinator of the Cebu Citizens Involvement and Maturation for People Empowerment and Liberation in Mandaue, said that seven voters from Barangays Bakilid and Maguikay did not find their names in their polling center as of noon.

They were advised to go to the Comelec.

In Cebu City, south district election officer Atty Michael Sarno said that one way to prevent long lines – partly caused by the printing of the voter’s receipts – would have been to get more machines.

Aron madali, unta dungagan ang machines but way budget ang Comelec (Comelec lacked the budget to get more machines),” he said. – Rappler.com

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