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Comelec asked to probe glitches, disenfranchised votes

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:11:00 05/16/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections

MANILA, Philippines ? Despite the fast transmission and tallying of results from the May 10 polls, election watchdog Kontra Daya (Against Cheating) said the country's first automated elections were still ?fraught with problems,? and called for an investigation into irregularities the group noticed based on its monitoring before and during Election Day.

Among the incidents that Kontra Daya urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into were the ?faulty? compact flash (CF) cards on election day, which delayed voting and transmission of results; the failure of several Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs) to use the UV lamps to verify the authenticity of the ballots; the actual number of reported disenfranchised voters; and reports of malfunctioning PCOS machines.

?We are issuing these recommendations based on the monitoring work we did before and during the May 10 polls,? the group said in a statement on Sunday.

?While it is acknowledged that the transmission and initial tallying of results were fast, the whole automated process was fraught with problems ? from poor preparations, inadequate training of BEIs, absence of rigorous testing of machines and the lack of education among the public,? it said.

Kontra Daya also urged the Comelec to review the clustering of precincts where the long queues ?greatly contributed to the slow and often disorderly voting process? in several polling precincts nationwide. They batted for a longer and more intensive training period for BEIs and technicians, and for the conduct of more mock polls simulating actual polling conditions.

The group said the Comelec should bring down the number of voters per polling precinct to a ?much more manageable level,? which would require having more PCOS machines to decongest the clustered precincts.

It noted how several public school teachers who comprised the BEI were unfamiliar with the PCOS machines, while some technicians from poll machine vendor, Smartmatic-TIM, still had to consult with their main office on how to fix glitches on the machines on Election Day.

Kontra Daya said the Comelec should look into the failure of many BEI members to use the UV lamps, an important security feature of the automated elections, to verify the authenticity of the ballots, noting that it had implications on the integrity of the poll results. Some BEIs were reported to have pre-scanned the ballots.

Kontra Daya stressed that the PCOS machines had built-in scanners to check the authenticity of the ballots but problems during printing of the ballots forced the Comelec to buy P30 million worth of UV lamps instead.

Kontra Daya also noted that different groups pegged the number of disenfranchised voters from 2.5 million to five million, mostly first time voters and those discouraged by the disorderly process last May 10.

The Comelec must also account for the actual total number of rejected ballots and reexamine the reasons for the rejection, the group said.

It cited reports that some BEI members made voters affix their thumb marks first before shading their ballot, which might have caused marks on the ballots, which were rejected by the PCOS.

?To have credible results, such review must look into the actual rejected ballots and not simply rely on the accounting or report of the BEI. The reason is that the BEI may have wrongly reported the reason for the rejection of the ballots,? Kontra Daya said.

In asking the Comelec to look into reports of PCOS machines malfunctioning on Election Day, Kontra Daya said that the poll body must determine the reason for the malfunctions and determine the extent of hardware problems and ?therefore the degree of Smartmatic-TIM?s accountability.?

The group stressed that Smartmatic-TIM ?should be held accountable for the snafu created by the wrongly configured CF cards distributed to polling centers days before the elections.?

?The Comelec may have to review and revise its system on technical preparations. The Comelec must allow a reasonable schedule for the final testing and sealing of the PCOS machines as well as consider a system of verification from independent IT experts on the reliability of the Comelec?s technical preparations,? Kontra Daya said.



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