In a dry run, glitches are unavoidable.
“I don’t understand all the noise, these critics,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters on Monday. “They know that mock elections are never perfect.”
Brillantes shrugged off fears gremlins that hounded the exercise on Saturday in preparation for the May 13 elections showed the Comelec might be unprepared for another automated balloting.
The poll watchdog Kontra Daya on Sunday expressed concern that more glitches might attend the next balloting because the problems that were encountered during the 2010 balloting have yet to be addressed.
The group said Saturday’s dry run in 20 voting centers in 10 areas in the country included the failure of some of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to read ballots, the rejection of some ballots by the machines and the thermal papers did not properly fit in the PCOS printer.
“While we find fault in the system to fix these things, these critics are finding fault to attack us,” said an exasperated Brillantes.
The Comelec chief pointed out that these were “minor glitches” that could be corrected before May 13. “What do they want? Minor glitches are unavoidable,” he said.
Brillantes conceded that on Election Day, some hitches were sure to hit “one out of the 81,000” voting machines.
“If they want to change the PCOS, let’s just go back to manual because it’s too late for us to order [a new technology],” he said.
Malacañang downplayed the apprehensions.
“This is not the first time the Comelec is going to oversee an automated elections,” said President Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda.
“This is something that the Comelec has experience with—notwithstanding the presence of some new commissioners. The bureaucracy is familiar already with automated elections,” Lacierda said.
“The President has already indicated that the election should be conducted with full integrity. And so, we expect the Comelec to ensure that the elections in 2013 will be devoid of irregularities,” he said in a briefing. “I am sure no one is going to question the intent, the determination of Comelec to prove itself as an arbiter of a peaceful, orderly and honest elections.”
In a news forum on Monday three senatorial candidates—former Sen. Ernesto Maceda, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito and former Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board—likewise expressed apprehension over Saturday’s dry run.
“When there’s a problem with the transmission of votes, it’s already a major glitch,” Maceda said. “I’m also worried when they said that because of storage, we have to heat up the PCOS machines before we use them. Of the 86,000 machines, they should start reviewing now if the batteries are still working.”
“An IT (information technology) expert said that of a thousand ballots, four were anomalous. If you multiply that, it’s a lot of votes. It’s not a minor glitch because every vote is important,” Llamanzares said, citing her improved but still precarious showing in a survey of the senatorial race from 20th to the 11th spot.
“If you noticed, there are a lot of dropped calls recently and the connection is really bad,” Llamanzares said, attributing it to the flurry of communication activities due to the election and campaign period.
“Can you imagine, come election day, the PCOS machines won’t just be the problem. With the sheer volume of data being transmitted, there is really a big possibility of signal problems,” said Llamanzares, a former member of Kontra Daya.
JV Ejercito said: “The glitches are a cause for concern. The Comelec has no alternative, no backup, no manual system.
“When the PCOS machines were introduced, it was thought that less human intervention is better because there is less risk of tampering with the votes. But if there are problems like these, what will be our fallback?” Ejercito asked.
Also on Monday, Brillantes said that the printing of the official ballots at the National Printing Office (NPO) could start a day later than scheduled.
It was supposed to begin Monday but as of press time, the printing has yet to start pending the transmission of images and ballot design from its warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna privince.
“It might start tonight (Monday) or maybe tomorrow (Tuesday) because we are still waiting for the preliminaries,” Brillantes said.
The NPO will initially print 770,000 ballots, or 10 ballots for each of the 77,000 precincts, for the testing and sealing of the PCOS machines, which has been set a week before the elections.
This figure is on top of the more than 52 million official ballots that have to be printed for the May 13 elections.