MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - In a bid to solve the long queues and delays in the voting, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) extended the voting period by 1 hour.
Comelec chair Jose Melo said the voting period will end at 7 p.m., instead of 6 p.m. as originally scheduled.
The Liberal Party (LP), through its counsel Sixto Brillantes, actually asked the Comelec for a 2-hour extension, but the Comelec said the additional 1 hour would suffice.
Brillantes had wanted to file a motion for the extension of the voting period, but was told by the Comelec en banc that they would move for the extension motu proprio or on its own initiative.
Brillantes, however, said the Comelec might extend the voting by another hour if the need arises.
Initial reports from the field showed that many voters, frustrated with not finding their names and their respective precincts, opted to leave the polling centers without casting their votes.
The long queues and the heat have also prompted others to simply give up and go on with their ordinary activities.
This is the first time that the country is conducting nationwide poll automation. So far, Melo said voter turnout is encouraging. Historically, voter turnout in national elections is around 80 percent.
Meanwhile, Smartmatic spokesman Cesar Flores reported to the Comelec that more than 300 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines failed to function, although these are being replaced.
In a news conference, Flores said 239 PCOS machines in different polling centers have been replaced while 89 “are in the process” of being replaced.
Reports of confusion and irritation among voters poured in during the initial hours of the voting period. Voters in several areas endured long lines amid the scorching summer sun.
This is the first nationwide automated elections in the Philippines. Voters expected to spend only 7 to 8 minutes to cast their votes, but the long queues stretched waiting time up to 3 hours for some.
The long lines were the result of reduced number of precincts. There are only 76,347 precincts for the 2010 elections from the previous over 300,000 during the 2007 polls.
Five to 7 precincts were clustered into just one precinct, while voting hours were extended to 11 hours from the previous 8 hours.
These changes for the 2010 elections were based on the assumption that the poll automation project will speed up the voting process since voting will be via a precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine. Each clustered precinct was expected to process around 1,000 voters. In previous manual polls, each precinct could only process 100 to 250 voters.
The voting period for the 2010 elections was originally set for 7a.m. to 6 p.m. In the past, voting period was only up to 3 p.m.
In this elections, however, the number of registered voters in the Philipines has hit 50.7 million, a record high.
The Comelec has awarded the P11.3 billion contract to automate the 2010 national elections to the consortium of Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM). - with reports from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News