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PCOS machines did good overall–Comelec

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said the number of glitches reported during the final testing and sealing of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were minimal.

The Comelec conducted the testing of the machines on Monday—the final dry run before the elections on May 13.

Out of the tens of thousands of machines that underwent testing, less than 100 suffered glitches, according to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes.

Brillantes said in an interview that this should not be a cause of concern since this was very minimal compared to the problems encountered during the 2010 polls.

It will be recalled that in 2010, the compact flash cards in the PCOS machines were found to have been misconfigured, prompting the Comelec and its service provider, Smartmatic-TIM Corp., to replace all the close to 80,000 memory cards nationwide with a week left before election day.

Brillantes explained that if there were some discrepancies between the machine and manual audit, these were too minimal to affect the results.

“We’ve repeatedly been saying that the manual and machine audits cannot really match. A manual audit is based on human appreciation,” he said.

“The [automated and manual count] cannot always match because the machine is a perfect counter and it is a scanner that measures the threshold [of shading],” Brillantes said.

The threshold was set at less than 50 percent, he said.

“When a person looks at what the PCOS counted, there will always be a discrepancy, because the way a machine and a person look [at a ballot] are not the same—a machine is programmed while a person just looks on,” Brillantes said.

In Laguna, the testing overall of the voting machines went “smoothly,” except for a few machines that malfunctioned, according to reports received by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

“Out of 1,500 machines, only around 10 malfunctioned,” Comelec provincial election supervisor Allan Enriquez said in a phone interview.

The testing started in 28 of the 30 Laguna cities and municipalities. Testing of the machines in Siniloan town and Cabuyao City will be held Wednesday.

PPCRV Laguna chairman Fr. Cletus Nalda said they had received reports some of the PCOS machines came without their seals.

Enriquez said, however, that the seals were not that important. “What’s important is that the machines are empty,” he said.

Lawyer Veronico Petalcorin, officer-in-charge of Comelec-Eastern Visayas, said 5,135 PCOS machines were tested across the region, representing the same number of Eastern Visayas’ clustered precincts.

“We will try to see what possible glitches we can correct during the elections while we still have time,” he said.

So far, the Comelec regional office has yet to receive reports of glitches encountered by the PCOS machines.

In Southern Leyte, the testing of the machines in two towns was successful except for minor glitches—either they would not start or they would not print, according to Elvie Monge, a senior officer at the Comelec provincial office.

In Davao City, technical problems reported included the machines’ failure to initialize as a result of errors in their compact flash memory cards and errors caused by their thermal printers.

“We were about to print the test election results when they shut down,” said a teacher at Matina Central Elementary School.

Redemptor Banayo, the technician assigned to the school, said it was “normal” for the machines to shut down after experiencing thermal printer issues.

“In fact, during our training, the machines shut down repeatedly. I think this is understandable because these machines were stored and unused for years,” Banayo said.

He said there were also instances when the machines froze.

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya expressed alarm over what it called “serious glitches” in the testing of the PCOS machines in Davao City.

UP professor Aya Ragragio, convenor of Kontra Daya-Mindanao, said technical glitches, unpreparedness on the part of the Board of Election Inspectors and lack of technical support persisted during the PCOS testing.

“We regret that the poor outcome of the testing would reflect the outcome of the actual polls, which could lead to election failure,” Ragrario said.

In Agusan del Sur, several PCOS machines tested turned out to be defective and needed replacement, said Frederico Blanco, election officer in San Francisco town.—Tina G. Santos; Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Joey Gabieta and Jani Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas; Karlos Manlupig, Germelina Lacorte and Chris Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: Commission on Elections , Elections , PCOS machines , Philippines , tests

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