Around 600 out of the 85,000 vote counting machines (VCM) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) malfunctioned yesterday causing delays in actual voting.
Some prominent personalities, led by former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is seeking a congressional seat in Makati City, were not exempted from the VCM glitches.
At an average 730 voters per VCM, some 438,000 votes would have been affected had the machines not been replaced or fixed.
The number was larger than that of the malfunctions during the 2016 elections.
Binay even went to the Comelec center at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) to file a complaint after his ballot was rejected several times by the VCM.
After the Comelec replaced the original VCM, Binay’s ballot was accepted.
Apart from Binay’s, 48 other ballots were rejected by the same defective VCM, but were eventually scanned by the replacement machine.
Comelec director Frances Arabe said the commission readied around 9,000 VCM nationwide in case of similar glitches.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel slammed the Comelec amid several reports of defective VCM that caused some delay in the voting process.
Pimentel particularly cited that 16 out of 50 barangays in Dapitan City have faulty machines and secure digital (SD) cards.
The barangays that encountered VCM glitches were Larayan, Napo, Potol, Talisay, Potungan, Taguilon, Masidlakon, Sigayan, San Vicente, San Pedro, Tag-ulo, Oro, Dawo, Antipolo, Sto. Niño, and Aliguay, he noted.
“Too many reports of malfunctioning VCM nationwide. Hence the question to ask now is, why did the Comelec report that all VCM pass the diagnostic tests?” Pimentel said.
Apart from malfunctioning VCM, Comelec director James Jimenez also confirmed there were issues regarding SD cards that contributed to the delay of the voting process.
Jimenez, however, maintained that the voting centers would still close at 6 p.m. as originally scheduled.
He said that those at the polling precincts at 6 p.m. could vote.
In Pasig City, 20 VCM malfunctioned causing delay to the voting.
In Zamboanga City, 35 voter registration verification machines (VRVM) malfunctioned.
Sixteen out the of the 50 barangays in Dapitan City reported broken VCM and SD cards.
In Zamboanga del Sur, 25 VCM were reported corrupted, while in Basilan, 19 VRVM and one VCM malfunctioned. The Wesmincom also reported that in Tawi-Tawi, 37 VCM malfunctioned.
Hard to gain perfection
Jimenez said during a midday press briefing that technical issues involving the VCM caused delays in some precincts all over the country. Among the more common problems encountered in the use of the VCM were paper jams and ballots being rejected. In response, some precincts opted to count the votes manually.
Jimenez said the VCM used in this year’s midterm elections were the same equipment deployed for the 2016 polls.
“These are the VCM we used in 2016. I cannot rule out the possibility that these malfunctioned because they are already old. But we still need to find out if that’s true,” he said. “We never said that this will be a perfect election. With so many machines used, it is inevitable that some of them would malfunction.”
In Kidapawan City, it took two hours for Comelec to replace the defective VCM in precinct 111A in Barangay Balabag, causing a delay in the casting of votes.
Josephine Macapas, acting election supervisor, however, said another problem occurred in the VCM that replaced the defective one and noted that they found the SD card of the contingent machine was also defective.
With Mario J. Mallari