Comelec targets 90% vote transmission for 2016 polls

TRANSMISSION TEST. The Commission on Elections tests the transmission of election results in its Santa Rosa warehouse on April 23, 2016. Photo by Lito Boras/Rappler

TRANSMISSION TEST. The Commission on Elections tests the transmission of election results in its Santa Rosa warehouse on April 23, 2016.

Photo by Lito Boras/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body aims to transmit 90% of votes from more than 90,000 vote-counting machines this year.

This is the same transmission rate in the 2010 presidential elections.

Poor Internet signals and the geography of the Philippines' 7,107 islands will prevent the Comelec from transmitting 100% of votes for the May 9 elections, Bautista explained.

Bautista said the 90% target is a far cry from the 76% transmission rate in 2013.

He explained why it's difficult to achieve a 100% transmission rate.

"Puwede naman. Why not, ‘di ba? Pero ako, malamang mahihirapan," Bautista said Monday, April 25. (It could be. Why not, right? But for me, it might be difficult.) 

Bautista, former law dean of Far Eastern University, however pointed out that 90% is good enough for “first honors.”

Kasi ang first honors, 90%, masaya na ako e,” he said. (Because first honors would be 90%, I will be happy.)

This comes after the Comelec on April 23 tested the transmission of votes from polling precincts to canvassing centers across the Philippines.

Poor signal a problem

In this mock canvassing, the Comelec managed to transmit 100% of votes from across the country.

Asked why the Comelec can transmit only 90% of votes after the May 9 elections when it relayed 100% of votes from VCMs last April 23, Bautista pointed out that the transmission test on April 23 involved only 20 areas in the Philippines.

On the other hand, the May 9 elections will involve 92,509 polling precincts.

So by way of percentages, siyempre bumababa,” the elections chief said. (So by way of percentages, of course it becomes lower.)

Besides poor Internet signals, he also cited other factors such as weather and even the positioning of the machines. 

Bautista said the Comelec, in any case, is already anticipating and addressing these problems.

One thing they will do is to meet with telecommunications companies.

He said the Comelec wants to request telcos to prioritize data to be transmitted by the Comelec after 5 pm on May 9.

He said of the telcos, "They have been very cooperative."

'No vote disregarded'

The Philippines’ VCMs were manufactured by Smartmatic, the same Venezuelan company behind the country’s voting machines in its first two automated polls in 2010 and 2013.

Smartmatic voters’ education head Karen Jimeno explained the transmission process during the transmission test on April 23.

Jimeno said that on election day, election results will be transmitted directly from VCMs to canvassing centers as soon as the voting period ends.

Jimeno said that if electronic transmission fails, the SD memory cards containing the election results "are manually delivered to the appropriate board of canvasser for consolidation and canvassing."

Jimeno, a lawyer, added in a text message to Rappler: "No vote is disregarded. All votes are required by law to be counted in order to proclaim the winners."

The head of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), for her part, said she hopes the Comelec will address a number of transmission problems seen in 2013.

One of these problems is permitting the manual or physical transfer of USBs containing election results to the "next transmission level", which means municipal or provincial canvassing centers.

PPCRV Chairperson Henrietta de Villa said, "Kung physical transfer, parang that defeats the automation purpose. Dangerous, baka na naman merong naka-intervene, baka ‘ka ko nagkapalit, ‘yung mga ganoong type." 

(If there’s physical transfer, it seems to defeat the purpose of automation. Dangerous, there might be someone who’ll intervene, there might be switching, those types of problems.) 

De Villa said the Comelec should lessen this "so that we can improve on the credibility of the elections." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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