Comelec: Machine testing can drag until election day

By Reynaldo Santos Jr.,

Posted at May 05 2010 05:56 PM | Updated as of May 06 2010 05:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines—Election machine manufacturer Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed the possibility of the final sealing and testing of election machines dragging until election day on May 10.

Originally scheduled 3 to 7 days before the election day (from May 3 to 7), the sealing and testing was delayed after the compact flash (CF) cards of the vote counting machines experienced glitches during mock polls in various localities on Monday.

Some CF cards were found to have configuration errors, hence the failure of some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to accurately read and appropriate votes. Smartmatic halted the nationwide testing since then.

Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores told reporters on Wednesday that they have started with the production of CF card replacements. The testing and sealing of machines has since been moved to Thursday until morning of Monday, election day.

Around 76,000 CF cards were recalled and will be replaced with properly-configured cards. Smartmatic, however, purchased 62,000 brand new cards only. Flores explained that the remaining 14,000 will come from recalled cards that will be recycled. Those that won’t undergo recycling will be burned.

Smartmatic expects to finish today configuring around 25,000 new CF cards, which will immediately be shipped tonight. Production of the remaining 51,000 cards is expected to be finished from tomorrow until Friday morning.

Flores said that the cities of Makati, Marikina, and Parañaque, and some areas in the province in Batangas will receive the replacement cards and proceed with the sealing and testing by tomorrow. For other parts of the country, however, replacement cards are expected to arrive and be tested by Friday.

Given the new timeline, arrival and replacement of these new cards can happen as late as Monday morning, just before the election hour starts. Polling precincts are scheduled to open at 7 a.m. on election day. The boards of election inspectors are reporting for work at 6 a.m.

“We have a tighter schedule, that's the reality of this new development,” Flores revealed. He gave assurances, however, that they are always prepared with backup plans.

Comelec commisioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that they were able to get support from the Air Force and the business sector in terms of logistics. He reported that businessmen committed 10 to 13 helicopters, while the Air Force committed "all their air access."

As for the new schedule, he said that the extension for sealing and testing is still in line with the election automation law, which requires sealing and testing before the machines begin with its official operation.

“Even morning of May10, it could still be done. What's important is that all machines will be tested before the elections,” Larazzabal said. (