MANILA (UPDATE) — Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Saidamen Pangarungan said Tuesday that he hopes the final testing and sealing of vote counting machines (VCM) this week will boost voter confidence in the May 9 elections.
After observing the final testing and sealing at a precinct in San Juan City, Pangarungan said that the voting process was "smooth."
"Nakikita natin na 'yong proseso sa election ay okay naman. Nakita natin 'yong proseso dito, napaka-smooth o walang malfunction o anything," he told reporters.
(We can see that the election process is okay. It was smooth and no malfunctions were seen.)
"Very, very satisfied. I will consider it flawless," he added.
The testing and sealing began when electoral board members acquired the VCMs and brought them into their respective polling precincts.
There, VCMs were unboxed, while 10 testing ballots were allotted per precinct. The ballots were then used by individuals who cast their votes for testing purposes.
When Pangarungan arrived at one of the precincts, the electoral boards walked him through the process from unboxing, voting, up to the generation of election returns.
The Comelec chair then read aloud one of the test election results, but declined to name names as real candidates were used in the test ballots.
The VCMs will stay in the voting precincts until election day; however, the actual official ballots will only be distributed to the electoral board dawn of election day.
Comelec's final testing and sealing process is scheduled in all precincts nationwide this week. It is open to the public.
Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, the poll body's steering committee chair, scored the importance of the said process, saying that it will determine the quality of the VCMs and which of these are defective.
It also aims to test the accuracy of the machines and other election paraphernalia.
"Basically, the Comelec is ready. We're just waiting for the day of the election," Casquejo said.
For San Juan City election officer Jayvee Villagracia, the final testing and sealing was a breeze, save for a battery leak encountered in Xavier School.
One machine was also said to have been “re-zeroed” twice.
“Sa re-zero, isang beses lang dapat siya na re-zero. Nadalawang beses siya na hindi naman sinasadya. Napindot lang. Hiningi yung kaniyang one-time password at ngayon sini-seal na siya. So far, yun lang naman ang nakitang issue at madaling naayos,” Villagracia said.
(A machine should only be re-zeroed once. It was inadvertently re-zeroed twice after an accidental button push. The machine asked for the one-time password and is now being sealed. So far, that was the only issue encountered.)
Helen Acedo, the assigned DESO for Xavier School, said that the 17 vote counting machines that were tested yielded no discrepancy between ballots and receipts.
Aside from VCMs, Acedo said they also requested that a list of voters should be posted at the school entrance to help those coming in identify which precinct they should proceed to.
Waiting areas per precinct and crowd control personnel will also be deployed in Xavier on May 9 to ensure that physical distancing will still be followed.
Acedo advises voters to prepare a list of candidates who they plan to vote for to facilitate their voting.
San Juan City is one of the areas in the National Capital Region with the least number of registered voters at over 100,000.
— with report from Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News