MANILA, Philippines – An election watchdog and voters on Monday, May 9, urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend voting hours as people continue to face issues in polling precincts.
Kontra Daya said the persistent breakdowns of vote counting machines (VCMs) as reported across the Philippines, coupled with long waiting time due to enforcement of health protocols, show a “high probability that many voters would be unable to vote by 7 pm.”
“Extending voting hours will enable more voters to cast their votes and allow time for Comelec to resolve issues with voting,” it said in a statement.
Polling precincts are open from 6 am to 7 pm for the 2022 national elections – already an hour longer compared to 2019’s 6 pm closing time.
The calls for extension of voting hours in this year’s elections come amid reports of polling precincts that opened late or had to stop taking in voters due to malfunctioning VCMs.
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia on Monday said that as of 10 am, at least 1,867 cases of VCMs that encountered glitches were already resolved. This number comprises 1.74% of the total machines used in the 2022 elections.
Meanwhile, at least 143 VCMs were classified as defective. But Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said that the issues reported are “isolated incidents.”
Established contingency procedures by Comelec in the case of glitches include the voter either allowing the electoral board to batch-feed the ballot at a later time with watchers present, or to wait for the issue to be resolved so the voter could personally feed the ballot into the machine.
How is it that a polling precinct got away with having tons of campaign posters hanging on its gates? BF Multipurpose Hall III, BF Homes Paranaque City, May 9, 2022. #WeDecide @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/aLfKUKilsp— Joel Pablo Salud (@joel_salud) May 9, 2022
Voters insisted on staying in line and waiting for possible VCM replacements, instead of authorizing poll workers to feed the machine their ballots. This has led to long lines, with some reporting to have waited for more than three hours already.
Former senator Bam Aquino, the campaign manager of presidential candidate Leni Robredo, urged Filipinos waiting in line to stay the course until VCM issues are resolved.
“Ang ating panawagan sa mga kababayan ngayong araw: walang aalis ng voting precinct hangga’t hindi ‘nyo pa nache-check ang resibo ng inyong balota,” he said.
(We call on the public to not leave voting precinct without checking the receipt of your ballot.)
Statement of Sen. Kiko Pangilinan on extension of voting hours
Also joining for an extension of polling hours was vice presidential candidate Senator Kiko Pangilinan.
“Nananawagan ako na i-extend ng Comelec ng 2 oras ang pagboto sa mga lugar na apektado ng mga aberyang ito (I’m calling the Comelec to extend by two hours the voting in affected precincts),” said Pangilinan.
He added: Hindi kasalanan ng mga botante ang delay na ito — karamihan sa kanila oras ang binibilang sa pila. Bigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang lahat ng mga kababayan nating gustong makilahok na makaboto ngayon araw. (This is not the fault of voters, most of whom have spent hours in line just to cast their ballots. Let’s give our countymen who want to vote a chance to participate today.”)