Ex-officials warn of looming failure of May polls


Posted at Jan 30 2010 02:28 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2010 10:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - All indications of a looming failure of the May 10 elections are becoming more visible with the delays and glitches involving the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, former government officials opposed to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Saturday.

"Deliveries, testing, calibration, validation and training for automated elections are delayed. Ballot printing is also delayed... The risks of failures of the 2010 elections are increasing everyday," the group, Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), said in a statement.

The group said that Mrs. Arroyo should be blamed if the May 10 national and local polls fail.

"All preparations for the [automated elections] occurred under the GMA administration and the Melo Comelec, as the Abalos Comelec, are mostly or totally composed of GMA appointees," the FSGO said.

The FSGO said a failure of elections, even in an automated system, can only be "deliberate" and "engineered by the GMA administration."

The group issued the statement after 2 field tests transmitting counted votes from PCOS machines to several national level servers suffered hitches.

The PCOS machines failed to immediately transmit votes to the central server of the Comelec due to weak mobile network signals. However, the glitches were solved after SIM cards were changed.

Aside from these hitches, several other concerns about the full automation of the May 10 elections have been raised, including the lab and field testing of all the counting machines, late training of teachers, and the fielding of 50,000 IT experts by the Smarmatic-TIM.

The PCOS machines supplier and the Comelec have yet to disclose before a joint congressional oversight committee how and when the IT experts will be mobilized to help address problems in poll automation.

At ABS-CBN News Channel's (ANC) poll automation forum on Friday night, Smartmatic-TIM international sales director Cesar Flores admitted that some PCOS machines might not work during election day.

Flores, however, clarified that measures to avoid machine failures are now being undertaken.

He said all 82,200 PCOS machines will be tested in polling centers 3 days before the actual elections.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal assured during the forum that the poll body is prepared to go manual in case the automation system fails.

Larrazabal said the counting of votes manually and automatically on election day can be done. -- Reports from Israel Malasa, ABS-CBN News and ANC