VCM glitches, minor incidents mar generally peaceful polls

By Jose Cielito Reganit

May 13, 2019, 8:48 pm

MANILA -- Voting in most polling stations ended at 6 p.m. Monday, with a number of vote counting machines (VCMs) malfunctioning, several incidents of alleged vote-buying and other minor incidents marring what has been a generally smooth and peaceful mid-term elections.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), between 400 to 600 out of the 85,000 vote counting machines in precincts across the country encountered glitches.

Additionally, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded more then a hundred incidents of alleged vote-buying as the voting process, which started at 6 a.m., was halfway.

VCM glitches

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that in the course of the elections, about 400-600 VCMs have to be replaced due to technical issues.

Other VCM-related issues ranged from paper jams to machines that failed to read ballots, resulting to delays in the voting.

Jimenez said reports on the ground blamed it on SD cards that were not functioning.

"Again, we're still really pinning down the reasons for the issues experienced by the VCMs, but right now, what we have is the SD cards," he added.

Aside from the 400 to 600 vote counting machines (VCM) that have been replaced, Jimenez said there are certain polling precincts that have yet to report its opening to the Comelec.

Among these precincts are in Isabela, Zambales, Samar, Naga City in Cebu as well as Compostela Valley and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao.

"We just haven't been able to hear from them yet," Jimenez said.

But despite acknowledging the problems besetting some polling areas, the Comelec official allayed concerns over the impact of the VCM glitches to the overall conduct of the elections.

“In the overall scheme of things, that is a small number,” he said.

"In general, because we are seeing that a lot of precincts are opened and we are getting a lot of reports that people were able to cast their votes successfully, we think it's generally successful,"Jimenez noted.

This was echoed by the Church-based poll watchdog, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which dismissed as “not alarming” the Comelec report on the defective VCMs.

“That’s just about less than one percent, that’s 0.004 (percent), that’s not alarming,” PPCRV Executive Director Maribel Buenaobra said.

Vote-buying, other incidents

Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said more than 300 persons were nabbed for alleged vote-buying during police operations in various parts of the country.

“As of 1 p.m. today (Monday), the PNP National Election Monitoring Action Center (NEMAC), has recorded a total of 120 incidents with 302 violators,” he said in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The PNP said based on initial investigation, the three blasts that rocked Cotabato City and Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao are not election-related, adding that the incidents happened away from the polling places.

He said they also received a report of a shooting incident outside a polling place in Panglima Estino, Sulu that resulted in the wounding of five persons and the burning of two civilian vehicles.

Around 1,500 PNP personnel also acted as election boards (EB) following the absence of teachers assigned as EBs.

He said most of the areas where the teachers did not show up are in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Bicol Region and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon).

But overall, the PNP chief said there were no major untoward incidents reported since the elections started.

"Aside from some confusions, queuing, and delays during the start of the elections, there were no untoward incidents that distracted the holding of the election proper," Albayalde said.

This was confirmed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which said that only a “minimal breach of peace” has so far been recorded by the military.

"As of (2:40 p.m.) today, very minimal breach of peace and order was monitored and reported from all over. There were last minute attempts to disrupt the conduct of elections but these were immediately addressed by our security forces," Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He added that the months of preparations through coordination and conferences by the PNP, AFP and the Comelec is seen working to make sure the elections will be conducted peacefully.

"The AFP congratulates the Filipino people for the successful conduct of the National and Local Elections 2019 and their peaceful exercise of their right to choose our leaders who will continue to plot the future of our country," Detoyato said.

Delays, incidents did not hamper voters

But despite the delays caused by malfunctioning VCMs, the furor over the vote-buying allegations and other minor incidents, Filipino voters, including the elderly and those with special needs, displayed their commitment to democracy by exercising their right of suffrage.

This was on full display in vote-rich Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City where voters waited tirelessly even as two VCMs bogged down after recording only a handful of ballots at the start of the voting period.

The voters waited patiently until past 10 a.m. before the contingency VCMs came in to replace the malfunctioning ones.

The Department of Education Supervising Official (DESO) in the polling center, Dr. Maria Noemi Moncada, said not one of the voters went home and really waited for their turn to vote.

“They were extremely patient. They stayed to exercise their right (of) suffrage. The glitches did not stop them from voting,” Moncada told the PNA.

What happened in Barangay Holy Spirit was replicated around the nation as Filipino voters patiently waited for their turn to vote for their chosen candidates.

A total of 18,072 national and local positions are at stake in the just concluded mid-term polls.

Of the said number, voters will be electing 12 senators and 61 seats for party-list organizations.

For local polls, registered voters in the country will be selecting 245 members of the House of Representatives, 81 governors and vice governors and 780 members of Provincial Board.

Filipinos will also be voting for 145 city mayors and vice mayors; 1,628 city councilors; and 1,489 municipal mayors and vice mayors; and 11,916 municipal councilors.

The 2019 midterm elections was the fourth time that the country held an automated polls nationwide. The first one was in the 2010 presidential polls, the 2013 midterm elections was the second and the last was during the 2016 presidential polls. (with reports from Ferdinand Patinio, Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, and Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)