Comelec admits vote counting machines with 'issues' tripled in 2019 polls

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2019 04:15 PM | Updated as of May 13 2019 11:41 PM

A technician checks a malfunctioning vote counting machine at the Tomas Morato Elementary School in Quezon City, May 13, 2019. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Elections admitted Monday afternoon that the number of vote counting machines (VCMs) with problems tripled this year compared to the 2016 presidential elections

As of 2 p.m., 400 to 600 out of the 85,000 vote counting machines in precincts across the country encountered glitches, while the total number of VCM problems in the 2016 elections was at 188, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a press conference.

“In the overall scheme of things, that is a small number but compared to 2016, the figure is jarring,” he said.

The Comelec has deployed replacement machines, but is still “figuring out” what went wrong with the faulty VCMs, he said.

“These are the VCMs we used in 2016. I cannot rule out that possibility that these malfunctioned because of that,” Jimenez said when asked if the VCMs were malfunctioning because they were not brand new units.

“But we still need to find out if that’s true,” he said.

In some areas, the “primary cause of delay” were malfunctioning SD cards, he said.

Jimenez agreed with observations that VCM issues could be used by some camps to cast doubt on the credibility of the 2019 midterm elections.

“It is what it is. We never said that this will be a perfect election. We never said that in any of our elections,” he said.

“It’s a question of how a person wants to present these things: either part of the complexity of a logistical exercise like this, or as you say, it’s an attack on the credibility of the elections,” he said.

Despite this, Jimenez said the elections should still be considered as “generally successful” since there are a few more hours left to vote.

“In general, because a lot of precincts are open, we think the elections now are generally successful,” he said.

“Yes, issues are cropping up, but issues that are cropping up are also being addressed,” he said.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, however, believes the number of malfunctioning vote counting machines is larger than what the poll body is reporting.

"Based on reports we've received, its more than that. But there are some instances just like in 2016 where the field officials don't report it anymore. They just have it fixed. They fix the problem and continue the voting," he told ANC.

"For the most part they are able to fix it. In this case it is unusual because there are several instances wherein the SD card is corrupted. So a lot of them are asking, what is the quality of the SD cards procured and supplied? This wasn't this bad before."

Larrazabal said Comelec was able to stress test the machines used in Monday's polls so there should be no excuse for what transpired.

"These are not the ones used in 2010, which are much older. These are the new machines, relatively new machines used in 2016, which are used now. Its not supposed to be problematic," he said.