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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine 2013 mid-term elections kicked off on Monday, May 13 with dozens of reports of problems with the automated voting system, which lead to fears of a poll failure immediately denied by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
After precincts in Baguio City initially stopped the count upon noticing they had received ballots for Compostela Valley in faraway Mindanao, Comelec commissioner Lucenito Tagle rejected making the call.
“It’s too early to declare a failure at this time,” Tagle told Rappler.
Apart from Baguio, various parts of the country complained about glitches with the automated ballot machines.
Smartmatic, the manufacturing company, admitted that about 200 PCOS machines were faulty but that is “normal.”
Malfunctioning units were also observed in Zamboanga City and even Metro Manila, where Vice President Jejomar Binay had to wait after the machine initially did not accept his ballot.
Binay was one of many elected officials who rose early to cast his vote, unlike President Benigno Aquino III who voted in his home district of Tarlac after lunch.
Apart from these technical glitches, much of the attention on Monday was focused on Cavite, under tension after police surrounded the mansion of Sen Ramon Revilla in search of gun ban violators. Revilla, whose son is running for vice governor against the son of fellow senator and former national police chief Panfilo Lacson, denounced that his family was being harassed by Lacson’s allies in the department.
Meanwhile, Cebu voted in peace but suffered long lines at the polling stations, again due to problems with the PCOS machines.
For the second time, automated voting did not deter vote-buying, as Rappler learned via dozens of online and offline reports.
A foreign observer in Maguindanao claimed he saw unsealed machines that could have been tampered with prior to their delivery to the precincts in the province, where three bombs were discovered and diffused on Monday morning and voting was delayed in a few schools due to insufficient escorts for the vehicles delivering the PCOS units.
14,000 troops have been deployed to guard the polls in Western Mindanao, and so far it seems like they have been able to prevent the usual string of election-related violence, except a firefight between supporters of rival gubernatorial aspirants in Sulu.
The polls close at 7 pm. – Rappler.com
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