Watchdogs urge vigilance in wake of new automation glitch

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2010 04:11 PM | Updated as of May 05 2010 12:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Several groups have raised growing concerns over the reports of problematic Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and its faulty memory cards which will be used for the country’s first ever nationwide automated polls.

Poll watchdog group Kontra Daya said PCOS machines deployed in several precincts in Luzon experienced problems in tallying poll results.

“These are very alarming reports, coming as they are 6 days before the May 10 election. There should be immediate action from Comelec (Commission on Elections) and Smartmatic. It should be determined if the problems are with the machines, so the appropriate replacements or reconfiguration can be done,” said Kontra Daya convenor Fr. Joe Dizon.

Kontra Daya said the machines did not tally the votes correctly after the tests and many complaints were related to the tally of results for local positions.

The group monitored problems in Makati, Pateros and Batangas. Other news reports cited similar problems in Muntinlupa and Mindoro.

According to the group, it was able to get confirmation from the Makati City administrator that some PCOS machines deployed in the City did not read votes for mayoralty candidate Jun-Jun Binay.

“If the problems are with the printing alignments of ballots, then this can pose a serious problem since there are no replacement ballots. Comelec must assuage all concerns within the day,” Dizon said.

Dizon further said, “If these problems with the PCOS machines persist until May 7, then the stage is set for a very confusing and chaotic May 10 polls. We truly hope that we are wrong and that the Comelec will prove us wrong before May 10”.
     
Time running out

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is also alarmed and called on the people to be extra vigilant.

“We call on the people to be extra-vigilant during this period of uncertainty,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. “The public must be on the look-out for any concerted and deliberate effort that may result in election failure. We must not simply accept that scenario as the only outcome.”

Reyes hopes that the problems “will not be a prelude to worse things to come on election day.”

“The next few days will be critical for the nation if these problems are not resolved in a manner satisfactory to all stakeholders,” Reyes said.

“When the signs are clear that the elections will fail, we must be prepared to collectively act,” he added.

Reyes’ group also called on the Arroyo government to hold Smartmatic officials accountable.
 
“The Smartmatic officials must not be allowed to leave the country until this problem is solved. They should be held accountable if the glitches are proven to be their wrongdoing,” Reyes said.

Teachers group reacts

Meanwhile, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) joined other groups in raising the alarm over the reported malfunction of some PCOS machines.

TDC members from the field reported that there were PCOS machines in their respective schools which have malfunctioned.

They cited that in Malvar Elementary School in Manila, the PCOS machines failed to read the votes for mayoralty candidates. In Nolasco High School also in Manila, only 2 machines were used and one technician was sent to assist the teachers.
 
In Lakeview Elementary School in Muntinlupa, teachers waited for more than 12 hours for the arrival of PCOS machines, while teachers manning the Sampaloc Elementary School in Parañaque waited until late in the evening but no machines arrived.