Undelivered ballots, PCOS machines may set back polls


Posted at May 08 2010 12:10 AM | Updated as of May 08 2010 10:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It's not only undelivered compact flash cards which may spoil the start of the country's first nationwide automated elections on Monday.

Official reports obtained by ABS-CBN News detailing the status of the delivery of ballots and Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines across the country indicate a major obstacle to the holding of elections on May 10.

The problem: many polling centers may still not have their PCOS machines and official ballots when polling centers open on Monday.

One official document, "Nationwide Monitoring of PCOS Machines from Hub to Polling Center," shows that as of 11 am of May 7, or just two days before Election Day, only 21,232 or 27.8% out of 76,340 PCOS machines had actually been delivered from the various distribution hubs to 37,422 polling centers. (Click here to see table.)

The 37,422 polling centers, not to be confused with precincts, are the various schools where the PCOS machines and ballots have to be distributed. The polling centers are located in 1,497 municipalities and 137 cities.

Based on the report,  61 hours prior to Election Day, 55,108 PCOS machines or  72.2% had not yet been delivered from the distribution hubs to the polling centers.

As of 11 am Friday, four regions--Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas--still had 0% or no PCOS machines in their polling centers.

Central Luzon region only had 2.5% of the PCOS machines in their polling centers.

Only Eastern Visayas (Region 8), Socsargen (Region 12), and CARAGA (Region 13) had deliveries above 50% as of Friday.

Few ballots in LP bailiwicks?

The official report, "Nationwide Monitoring on Official Ballots," also showed that as of May 4, Tuesday, only 30,733 or 40.3% of 76,347 bundled official ballots had been delivered from the National Printing Office (NPO) to the provincial/city treasurer's office.

Based on the monitoring report, provinces including Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Batangas, Cavite, and Quezon had not received the ballots to be used on Monday.

These provinces are among the vote-rich areas, and are also known as bailiwicks of the Liberal Party.

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the think-tank, Institute of Political and Economic Reforms (IPER), expressed alarm over the reports.

"Baka nag-detour yung mga balotang yan at napunta sa ilang lugar na hindi dapat nandun, at may magic na ginawa dito," he said.

Flash cards snafu caused delays

In separate interviews with ABS-CBN News, Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and Smartmatic said the delay in the delivery was not deliberate, and was merely caused by the defects in the compact flash cards.

Poll officials assured ballots have been delivered to all provincial and municipal treasurer's office, while the delivery of PCOS machines will be completed by Sunday.

"Dinedelay kasi paglalaruan muna[?]. Hindi ho mangyayari yun. Bakit? Unang una, yung balota natin, naka vacuum pack. Yung vacuum-packed na yon is tamper-evident," said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez.

"These deliveries were again restarted yesterday [Thursday]. So yesterday, again, we delivered 10,000 machines to the precincts, and then today and tomorrow, we're delivering the bulk of the machines to the precincts," said Smartmatic's Cesar Flores.

All ballots delivered?

Jimenez and Smartmatic's Gene Gregorio belied the official reports obtained by ABS-CBN News.They claimed they have delivered 100% of ballots to all polling centers as of Friday.

They said 85% of PCOS machines would have been delivered by end of Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, they said 50,153 compact flash cards or 66%  have been shipped out of the Cabuyao warehouse  in Laguna.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo believes that voting will begin nationwide on Monday at 7 a.m.

"There will be no postponement because right now, we are distributing all the flash cards, and hopefully, they will be in place by Sunday. Definitely, 7 a.m., May 10, there'll be voting all over the country. -- reports from Jing Castañeda, Ryan Chua, Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News