MANILA - Several glitches hampered the final testing and sealing of the precinct-count optical scan (PCOS) machines in Pasay today as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) began its series of dry runs for the upcoming midterm elections.
One PCOS machine delivered to P. Villanueva Elementary School malfunctioned early on. When the poll clerk switched it on, the sign “back up memory cannot be detected” flashed.
The poll clerk then inserted the backup compact flash (CF) card located in front of the machine, but the same message still appeared. The poll clerks then consulted the Smartmatic technician present.
The technician, however, was clueless on troubleshooting.
Poll watchers then suggested rebooting the machine by switching it off. The poll clerks then inserted the CF card before powering up the PCOS machine. It was only then that the machine worked properly with mock voters able to cast their votes.
"Na start kasi agad yung PCOS na di pa nakalagay yung CF card, dapat pagbukas ng PCOS, nakalagay na yun,” says poll watcher Michael John Trinidad.
However, the problems did not stop there. The vote count in the same machine did not match the manual count done by the poll clerks.
There was a difference in the results because the PCOS did not recognize incorrectly-shaded ovals. One candidate for councilor was stripped of three votes out of ten votes when the machine did not count the insufficiently shaded circle.
The candidate should have had seven out of ten votes, but due to incorrect shading, the candidate ended up with only four votes. "Yung mga tama ang pag-shade, binilang; yung mga lagpas at kulang, hindi binilang," says Board of Election inspector Marietta Jamer.
In the case of one senatorial candidate, however, the machine recognized an unshaded circle marked with an "x" by the voter.
In this instance, the candidate got more votes than what he should have gotten. Instead of having just seven votes, the candidate got eight votes after the PCOS machine counted the "x" mark, which could mean the voter could just have erased his or her vote for that candidate.
Comelec earlier said marking the ballot other than shading would invalidate the vote, but that was not so in this case. The poll clerks reminded the voters to properly shade the ballots.
There were also other local candidates who lost 1 or 2 votes due to overshading.
Another precinct, meanwhile, failed to test its machine after the poll watchers discovered that there was a discrepancy in the machine’s serial number.
Board of Election Inspector Teresita Montases says that on the document receipt released by Comelec, the supposed serial number of the machine for Precinct Cluster 92 has 8974 as its last four digits. But the printed serial number on the machine itself has 7410 as its last four digits.
The poll watchers refused to proceed with the Comelec testing since these may invalidate the results due to technical differences. The Board of Election inspectors have already informed the Comelec headquarters about this but have yet to receive any response.
The two other precincts at the school, however, went through the testing and sealing without any problems.
The P. Villanueva Elementary School has approximately 4,000 registered voters from Pasay. The PCOS machines were stored at the Guidance Office, which serves as the storage area of the counting machines until May 13.
Security guards and Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel will secure the PCOS machines 24 hours a day. The poll watchers may, at any given time, inspect the storage area but they are not allowed to enter nor physically view the PCOS machines.