MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured the public that contingencies were in place for the high-stakes May 9 vote, doubling down on the commitment to deliver a reliable automated polls.
“I can assure everybody, there will be an election on May 9. There will be no failure of election,” Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said in a press briefing on Thursday, May 5. “Failure of election is not an option for the Comelec.”
Days away from the crucial polls, the election body had been conducting a week-long final testing and sealing (FTS) of vote-counting machines (VCMs) all over the country to ensure that the machines are working properly.
Casquejo, who also heads the steering committee of the 2022 polls, reported on Thursday that out of the 70,924 VCMs that underwent a final test, only 355, or 0.5% of the total, showed defects and had to be replaced.
He said this number was “very low” compared to 2019, when 500 VCMs were already identified as defective on the first day of FTS.
The 355 machines classified as defective during this election season’s FTS are already being repaired at the Comelec’s warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Common issues with the machines were faulty scanners and printer rollers, said Casquejo.
The Comelec has around 107,000 VCMs for the 2022 polls – 10,000 of which were specifically leased for the upcoming elections, and 97,000 that have been used in past elections, but have undergone refurbishment.
In terms of SD cards, only 44 out of 70,000 had defects and had to be replaced during the week-long FTS.
Show must go on
In the event that VCMs still malfunction on election day, the Comelec guaranteed measures were already in place to ensure that election operations would not be hampered.
Specifically, voters in the affected precinct are given the opportunity to (1) either continue casting their ballots with waiver of their right to be issued a voter receipt, as the ballots will later be batch-fed by poll workers, (2) or wait for the VCM malfunction to be resolved so they can personally feed the ballot into the machine.
The contingency measures are properly laid out in Comelec Resolution No. 10759, which was promulgated in January.
“All possible scenarios, we have a contingency plan in place,” Casquejo said. “We are all systems go [in relation to the conduct] of the 2022 elections.”
The 2022 elections is the fifth straight automated polls in the Philippines.
While past random manual audits – where independent auditors manually tallied votes and compared the results with machine tallies – had accuracy rates of 99%, reports of glitches here and there, as well as the seven-hour glitch of the 2019 polls, cast doubts on the automated election system’s integrity.
The infamous glitch was when the transparency server failed to reflect the election results for several hours.
Casquejo had said the system for the 2022 polls already underwent a “stress test” to ensure no glitch would occur. – Rappler.com