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TO PREVENT FAILURE OF ELECTIONS
Arroyo election lawyer sees no other way but to postpone polls

By Abigail Kwok, Tetch Torres
Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:50:00 05/04/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Inquirer Politics, Politics

MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE 2) The election lawyer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said there?s no other way to prevent a failure of elections but to postpone Monday?s balloting.

?Postponement of election is the only remedy to prevent a failure of election,? said lawyer Romulo Macalintal amid nationwide reports of vote machine glitches, fuelling fears the count could descend into chaos.

Macalintal said the Commission on Elections is authorized under Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code to reset the May 10 polls to a later date.

?Under the present situation, a 15-day postponement would be reasonable to give time for Comelec to print additional forms for manual tally and manual canvass,? he said, adding: ?This is not the time to blame anybody but time to solve this serious problem.?

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal however gave assurances that the poll body and technology provider Smartmatic-TIM were doing everything to correct the glitches.

In a television interview, Larrazabal said the defective memory cards would be replaced by Thursday.

Some of the 82,200 machines tested on Monday failed to read the names of candidates, forcing a recall of the software used, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

"Right now we are assuming that all of the machines were affected. We have stopped the testing and are pulling out all memory cards for (re)configuration," Jimenez told reporters.

He sought to allay fears being aired in the local press that this could lead to a failure of elections, saying that technicians would be able to fix the glitch before 50 million voters cast their ballots on Monday.

"We're getting the new configurations (done) today and in the next (few) days," he said.

Smartmatic-TIM Asia Pacific president Cesar Flores told a press conference the compact flash cards encountered problems on the ?configuration,? which was a ?human error.?

?There were some compact flash cards that carried mistakes on the configuration file and, therefore, the PCOS was not able to locate correctly to which candidates certain positions were. This is random,? Flores said.

Flores further explained that ?wrong instructions? were loaded into these problematic compact flash cards, leading to problems that were revealed during the testing and sealing process, days before the elections on May 10.

Flores noted that the errors and the problems only came out during the counting for local positions. This, he explained, was because candidates for local elections have double spacing on the ballot format.

?Why is it [the problem] only happening in the local and not on the national ones? As you can see, this is a local ballot, and the local ballot has double-spacing. So what's going on is if you mark the first row, it will be read correctly. But for some reason, the configuration is telling the machine that the candidate that is here on the second row is actually on the third row so it will read this candidate as a blank space,? he said.

?It's a human error,? Flores said.

The replacement compact flash cards would arrive by Wednesday, he said. "It is a tight schedule but it will be done. It can be done,"

But Bobby Tuazon, policy studies director at the Center for People Empowerment and Governance, said he doubted whether there would be enough time to correct the problem.

"This will raise doubts about the winners and results," said Tuazon, whose group had earlier warned of defects in the automation process.

"This will just increase fears among the public. It smacks of lack of preparedness, incompetence and their failure to listen and heed suggestions from various sectors."

The automated polls are being introduced for the first time to reduce the risk of cheating, which has plagued Philippine elections in the past, as well as to speed up the process of counting the votes.

The Comelec, meanwhile, said it has received information that certain groups it did not name were out to discredit the poll body by sowing chaos and confusion next week.

It said without elaborating that the alleged plot involved voters who would try to delay voting.

"We are instructing our board of election inspectors that they have the right to summon the police," to prevent this scenario, Jimenez said.

An estimated 50 million voters will choose a new president, vice president and thousands of other national and local officials on Monday.



Copyright 2014 Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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