“Qualitatively, there has been no change from last two automated elections — the problems were still led by machine troubles, and most other reported problems stemmed from it.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – A few hours before polls ended, the poll watchdog Kontra Daya graphed the poll complaints it received on the first hours of May 9 election day. They arrived at this conclusion: “Qualitatively, there has been no change from last two automated elections — the problems were still led by machine troubles, and most other reported problems stemmed from it,” said Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general and one of the conveners of Kontra Daya.
In a briefing at the monitoring center of Kontra Daya, Mac Yanto of Computer Professionals Union listed the problems complained of and seen as directly stemming from vote counting machine troubles. Based on verified reports received by the group, these include delays and long lines in voting, the compulsion for voters to just leave their filled up ballots for eventual feeding into the vote counting machines later, the frustration that drove voters to eventually give up and leave the precincts.
The same related problems result in disenfranchisement, and for voters who patiently waited to cast their votes despite the said machine troubles, the risks of vote tampering, Reyes said.
Faulty VCM and how it poses risks of vote tampering, disenfranchisement
From reports of Task Force Poll Watch and Kontra Daya volunteers during the actual voting process, majority of complaints were about incidents of vote counting machine (VCM) malfunctions in many areas around the country. These included non-functioning VCMs, rejected ballots, paper jams, overheating and machine shutdown.
In the National Capital Region, malfunctioning/non-functioning VCMs were reported across various precincts in Quezon City, Manila, Navotas, Makati, Paranaque, Marikina, Muntinlupa, and Caloocan.
Cluster Precinct (CP) 1549 in Beata Elementary School, Manila, for instance, reported a shutdown due to malfunctioning VCM. In Araullo High School, Manila, there were reports of failed diagnostic tests, jammed ballots and thermal receipts; no diagnostic process was observed for CP 1149.
Voters in some precincts in Quezon City, Caloocan and Pasig were asked to just leave their filled ballots. Outside NCR, VCM malfunctions were reported in Batangas, Tacloban, Occidental Mindoro, Naga, Cavite, Davao Oriental, Cagayan and La Union. Reports of voters unable to locate their names in the official list in their respective precincts also came in. In Brgy. Kayrilao, Nasugbu, some precincts resorted to manual voting due to VCM breakdown and the absence of replacement machines. In a precinct in Tuao, Cagayan, a VCM machine reportedly stopped functioning after processing the first 50 votes.
In Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, VCM malfunctions were reported in at least three incidents. At the East Central Elementary School, the VCM for cluster 190 of Magsaysay District stopped working at 11:06 a.m., after the 276th ballot was fed. The BEI resorted to manual feeding of ballots. The clustered precinct has a total of 763 voters.
PPCRV Cabanatuan also reported two VCMs malfunctioned in D.S.Garcia village. At the Nueva Ecija High School, the PPCRV reported that two voters in the clustered precinct for Sangitan Este village reported that some of their votes did not come out in the ballot printout. One reported that her vote for mayor came out as “undervote,” while another complained that her votes for mayor and vice mayor were reflected as “undervote.”
These are just some of the VCM troubles. It reportedly stalled the voting process from two to five hours.
Vote machine ‘inconsistency’
On top of malfunctioning VCMs, those that functioned “malfunctioned” by misreading and therefore miscounting the votes.
Although Kontra Daya said the figures they have so far (for partylist groups) are not yet shockingly huge, it has observed a trend that votes were being credited to other candidates, or else not read at all.
Votes for Makabayan Senatorial bet Neri Colmenares, for example, have not been recognized by some VCMs. Worse, the votes for him in Cagayan was credited to another candidate.
In Nueva Ecija, the father of jailed OFW Mary Jane Veloso monitored that at least 30 votes he knew were cast for Migrante Partylist were not receognized by the VCM.
In Davao Region, Kontra Daya sent reports that votes for presidential candidate Rodrigo Dutere were credited to Mar Roxas.
League of Filipino Students (LFS) national chairperson Charisse Bañez also shared that their members reported incidences in various precincts where VCMs displayed a “not an original ballot” message after voters submitted their ballots; VCMs did not recognize some of their votes, and there were VCMs that displayed an “undervote” or “overvote” message. There were VCMs that failed to print receipts.
Kontra Daya reported there were also incidents of black propaganda against certain party-list groups, vote buying, harassment and violence. At least one person in Abra was reported killed.
The poll watchdog received early reports of vote-buying in Cotabato City, amounting to P500, and in Surigao del Sur, amounting to P3,000, allegedly initiated by affiliates of the Liberal Party. A separate report of money being distributed to voters in Camalaniugan, Cagayan, was also registered.
The presence of military personnel and armed soldiers inside poll precincts in Brgys. Assign Via, Taytay and Bunugan in Baggao, Cagayan and Labac Elementary School in Naic, Cavite reportedly created an atmosphere of fear, which discouraged voters.(With reports from Dee Ayroso, Janess Ann Ellao)