By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
Voter counting machine errors worsened in today’s polls, bucking the lowering trend set in the 2013 and 2016 national and local elections, watchdog Kontra Daya revealed.
The group raised alarm over mounting reports of voting machine failures on top of procedural lapses, vote buying, harassment, and militarization of polling stations as today’s elections were supposedly nearing their end.
In an update released at four o’clock this afternoon, Kontra Daya reported more than 288 incidents of vote counting machine (VCM) failures that were independently monitored and mapped by its volunteer network on the ground.
“The magnitude of the problem is clearer now that the Comelec has just admitted that 600 out an estimated 85,768 voting machines have been replaced,” Kontra Daya reported.
The group noted that the violations are worse than during the 2016 elections.
Kontra Daya said it monitored 205 VCM malfunctions in 2010, 171 cases in 2013, and 150 cases in 2016.
‘Recurring and systemic machine failures’
Todays elections are the fourth time the controversial VCMs are being used in the polls.
“Since the shift to automated elections, malfunctioning VCMs and voters registration verification machines (VRVM) are a cause of voter disenfranchisement due to delays,” Kontra Daya said.
“Rejected ballots, machines shutting down, stopping, or refusing to start, stuck up ballots and/or voters’ receipts, discrepancies in receipts generated, and resorting to manual procedures for verification of voter’s names,” the group added.
“With COMELEC’s admission that there are about 400-600 VCMs that need to be replaced in today’s polls, Kontra Daya expresse[s] alarm over possible election fraud and disenfranchisement,” Kontra Daya said.
The group said that the incidents of VCM failure in today’s polls may still increase.
VCM machine problems or shutdowns affected several precincts across major regions including Metro Manila (including Caloocan, Manila, San Juan, Malabon, Novaliches, Pasig, and Quezon Cities), Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Albay, Cebu City, Eastern Samar, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, the watchdog said.
No less than former Vice-President Jejomar Binay initially failed to cast his vote due to a malfunctioning VCM in his precinct earlier this morning. A replacement machine was eventually brought in, allowing Binay to vote after several hours.
Cases of malfunctioning VRVMs were also reported in Quezon City, Cavite, Caloocan, and Cebu City.
In these cases, most of the VRVMs in the polling precincts were reported as not working, compelling teachers to resort to manual verification of voters’ names in the list, Kontra Daya said.
A source also informed Kodao that Board of Election Inspectors in Nueva Ecija decided to stop using defective VRVMs this morning.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) introduced the use of VRVMs in today’s elections but said these are absolutely necessary in the conduct of the polls.
Earlier, Kontra Daya called for the suspension of the use of VRVMs as they have caused unnecessary delays in the voting.
Continuation of the pilot testing until 6 p.m. could result in voter disenfranchisement, Kontra Daya said.
As of six o’clock tonight, several voting precincts throughout Quezon City reported long lines of voters still waiting to cast their votes.