Widespread PCOS troubles mar voting nationwide

During the 2010 elections, 16-percent of reports to Kontradaya involved PCOS machines; this election, the reports make up two to three of every five reports to KontraDaya.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Field reports reaching the Kontra Daya monitoring center cited widespread cases of malfunctioning PCOS machines in various polling places around the country, especially in vote-rich precincts. Live TV newscast showed orderly lines in polling places such as at the posh Ayala-Alabang, but in more thickly populated areas, long, snaking lines, missing names, non-functioning PCOS, rejected ballots, misplaced election paraphernalia, among others, have delayed the process of voting.

During the 2010 elections, 16-percent of reports to Kontradaya involved PCOS machines; this election, it make up three of every five reports to KontraDaya.

Renato Reyes, KontraDaya convener, said the PCOS machine failures that marked the first half of the election day warn of a chain reaction of similar delays. Considering that the PCOS machine malfunctions and other failings occur in populated precincts in many parts of the country, KontraDaya said these could be considered as “widespread” and had a major effect on the conduct of the elections.

The PCOS machine problems led to delayed elections, long lines of frustrated voters, and ultimately, voters’ disenfranchisement, said Dr. Gani Tapang, a co-convenor of Kontra Daya. In various cases, BEIs were compelled to either just collect the PCOS-rejected ballots, for later reading of other PCOS machines, or, in some areas, to do things like tweak or cut the ballots, or use broomsticks so certain PCOS machines could receive ballots. In worse cases, the precincts are just forced to await a replacement PCOS machine that may or may not arrive. Meanwhile, some voters just went home.

Kontra Daya also noted the case of switched ballots that affected polling precincts in Baguio City in the north and Compostella Valley in the south. Failure of elections had been declared over the affected areas, and Special elections will have to be held for these areas, KontraDaya’s Fr. Jo Dizon told Bulatlat.com.

‘Comelec’s hodge-podge preparation failed the voters’

“Taxpayers paid P1.8 billion (US$44.15-million) for these PCOS machines. The fact that we are seeing numerous cases of PCOS failures, malfunctions and delays only underscores the long-held observation that we were duped by Smartmatic. Comelec allowed the electorate to be shortchanged. This should be the last time we use these machines,” said Dr. Gani Tapang.

The Comelec is trying to make the automated elections work in a hodge-podge way, Tapang said.

Comelec did not do a thorough PCOS testing, Tapang added. It resulted, he explained, in an automated election system that has failed the electorate. The Comelec’s insistence in using these Smartmatic machines is wholly to be blamed, he said. Compounding that, Tapang told Bulatlat.com, is the lack of testing. Asked how come PCOS machines can read ballots earmarked for other precincts, Tapang said, this is one of the problems brought by Comelec’s decision to turn off security features.

He warned that if the automated elections have encountered problems at the reading stage, we cannot say how much more would be encountered when transmission starts. Transmission and tallying of votes are the stages of the automated elections that have not undergone even a modicum of testing. Fr. Dizon warned that the first stage of automated elections – the ones where PCOS machines are expected to boot up and read the votes – have already shown problems. And this stage, he said, has supposedly been tested. When transmission starts, he warned that the reliability and trustworthiness of the automated elections would be even more questionable.

The delays caused by PCOS problems have greatly inconvenienced the voters, said Fr. Dizon, citing the hardships and inconveniences the voters had to endure just to be able to cast their votes. And at the end of the election, these votes may not be accurately counted, he said.

Dr Tapang said that if we are serious in pushing for an honest election, it should not be this foreign-controlled technology by Smartmatic, adopted by the Comelec.

The following are some typical examples of PCOS problems, and knee-jerk remedies so voting could proceed:

At precinct 1279 in Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City, the BEI was forced to just collect shaded ballots after the PCOS machine malfunctioned. The delays caused by PCOS problems resulted in long queues, crowding the polling place and forcing some voters to just go home.

At clustered precinct 0584 in Brgy. Real, Calamba City, Laguna, the PCOS machine short-circuited, according to a report reaching Kontra Daya. As a remedy, the BEI asked voters to just shade their ballots, which poll officials said will be fed later as soon as the machine is fixed. In Batangas, PCOS-rejected ballots are also just collected reportedly for counting by other PCOS machines later.

At Bagong Nayon 2 Elementary School in Brgy. San Isidro, Antipolo, Rizal, voting has not started as of 7:46 am because the PCOS machine was not functioning. Several voters reportedly already went home due to the delay.

At the Central Elementary School in Barangay San Dioniso, Parañaque, the PCOS machine was reportedly rejecting the ballots causing long lines and forcing some to leave without voting.

At the Commonwealth Elementary School, PCOS machines reportedly break down and needed repairs by IT support staff, and have caused long queues at the already populated precincts. A bulatlat.com reporter saw at least three clustered precincts where teachers and technicians use brooms or long sticks to push down the ballots inside the PCOS machine to prevent breakdowns.

At the Corazon Aquino elementary school at the Batasan area, a PCOS machine reportedly reject all ballots being fed to it.

Kontra Daya monitored the switching of ballots intended for precincts in Benguet and Compostela Valley. The incident affected 858 voters from Clustered Precint 22 at Brgy. Gabi Elementary School, Compostela, Compostela Valley and an undetermined number of voters in Benguet’s Clustered Precinct 122 at Rizal Elementary School in Baguio City. Voting has been temporarily suspended in both precincts. Special elections will be held according to the Comelec.

In Zamboanga del Sur, the COMELEC’s official ballots have yet to reach precincts in Dumingag municipality even as the elections are now in full swing. According to field reports reaching election watchdog Kontra Daya, official ballots have yet to reach the voting precincts in Barangay San Pablo, Barangap Pedro, Barangay Guitran and Barangay Maralag in Dumingag municipality as of late last night. In other parts of Zamboanga, doubts about the ballots or the PCOS surfaced because the ballots have to be cut before the PCOS would accept it.

Due to late arrival of paraphernalia, the start of voting in clustered precincts number 0536 and 0537 of Hulo Elementary School in Mandaluyong City was delayed and it started at around 7:45 am.

Kontra Daya said that the cases of PCOS machine problems affirm the concerns repeatedly raised by various poll watchdogs which the Comelec simply dismissed. The group added that the delays in voting due to malfunctioning PCOS machines as well as the delays in delivering election materials could also disenfranchise many voters who have already left the polling centers. ()

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