Leaving ballots part of protocol if VCMs malfunction, says Comelec
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday assured the public that the practice of leaving ballots behind if vote counting machines (VCMs) malfunction is part of the protocol placed to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia during a press briefing on Monday noon said that voting would not stop if a VCM bugs down, as the ballots would then be mass-fed to the repaired VCM.
“Subalit po ‘yong mga makina na biglang nagka-problema, aayusin po ng ating mga technician or dadalahin sa ating repair hubs, lahat po ng balota, lahat po ng mga botanteng nakapila ay pabobotohin pa rin, tuloy-tuloy po ang pagboto hindi po titigil dahil wala ‘yong machine,” Garcia told reporters.
“Tuloy-tuloy po ang pagboto at ‘yong lahat ng balota ay pagpapatas-patasin. Gano’n po ‘yong solusyon natin. Tapos po, pag dumating na ‘yong machine later, ima-mass feed po ‘yon,” he added.
Garcia said that this scenario has been mentioned before by fellow Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, adding that people should not worry if their votes would be counted because poll watchers from different parties including the citizens’ arm would be present to witness the mass feeding.
But voters would no longer get receipts of their ballot, he clarified.
“Ito po ‘yong pagkakataon na binabanggit ni Commissioner Casquejo before na hindi mabibigyan ang mga botante ng resibo dahil ‘yon pong mga balota ima-mass feed po sa mga makina natin, sa harap ng mga political parties representatives, citizens’ arm, pati po ang ating mga watcher,” Garcia explained.
After voting hours opened at 6:00 a.m. earlier, numerous reports of VCM malfunctioning — and voters being asked to sign a waiver that they would leave their ballots behind — came in from various netizens.
The waiver was required to allow members of the election board to insert the ballots on behalf of the voter.
The numerous reports have prompted the opposition, including Vice President Leni Robredo who is running for president, and her campaign manager former Senator Bam Aquino, to ask Filipinos to remain vigilant and to document irregularities.
Aquino also urged voters to wait until the receipts of their votes are given to them.
But Garcia assured Filipinos again that the Comelec is on top of the situation, amid the rumors surrounding the elections.
“We would like to assure everybody that the Comelec is in full control of what is happening right now, the elections is still ongoing, the voting is still ongoing […] We would like to assure the public that these are anticipated,” Garcia said.
“In fact, doon po sa mga nasisira na mga makina, hindi nakakabasa na mga makina, or ‘yong medyo nagkaka-problema sa scanner ng makina, lahat pong ‘yan ay na-solve kanina ng ating operations center including ‘yong ating mga repair hubs,” he added.
He also clarified that people can wait for VCMs to function in case troubleshooting would be quick and minor.
“Ang gusto lang po nating liwanagin sa ating mga kababayan lalong-lalo na po ‘yong mga nakatatanda natin na naghihintay, na sila mismo ang maghulog ng mga balota sa mga makina natin. Tama po ‘yon, inuulit po natin, kapag ang mga makina ay maayos naman, na subject of repairs, sila po ang dapat na maghuhulog ng balota sa mga makina,” he said.
“So ‘wag po silang magtaka, o ‘wag po sabihin na ‘yon ang paraan para madaya or whatever. Kasama po sa protocol natin ‘yon, dahil papaano po ang requirement natin, para makaboto ang mga botante, ay dapat nandyan ‘yong machine. Isipin niyo po kung ang machine mamayang hapon pa ang dating, eh di mamayang hapon pa makakaboto ang mga botante natin,” he added.
Aside from the opposition’s reports, photos sent to INQUIRER.net by concerned citizens showed workers and senior citizens opting to leave their ballots behind at the Jose Rizal Elementary School in Tondo Manila.
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