Machine woes plague elections

VOTERS of Barangay Mayunoc in San Joaquin, Iloilo cast their votes at their barangay hall. Problems with the Voters Registration Verification Machines plagued the midterm polls on May 13, 2019. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo and Emme Rose Santiagudo

LONG lines of voters, malfunctioning machines and mis-delivered ballots were among the problems encountered by voters and the Commission on Elections during the conduct of the midterm polls on May 13, 2019.

As soon as the voting period started 6 a.m., reports of the Voter Registration Verification Machines bogging down in many areas started coming in.

In the municipality of San Joaquin, Iloilo, roughly 70% of the VRVMs deployed in the town were not working as of 8:45 a.m. Monday, according to San Joaquin Election Officer Remie Fernandez. 

Fernandez said the polling precincts resorted to manual verification through the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL).

Some VRVMs were able to print receipts after verification of some voters but they stopped working afterwards while election personnel cannot log-in in some VRVMs, Fernandez reported.

But as to the Vote Counting Machine (VCMs), Fernandez said all were working, except for one far-flung barangay.

Fernandez assured that they have replacement units for the malfunctioning machines.

A similar observation was made in Iloilo City, which is also a pilot area for the use of the VRVMs.

Atty. Roberto Salazar, Commission on Elections (Comelec) supervisor in Iloilo province, said he also received reports of malfunctioning VRVMs in Iloilo province but he cannot give the exact number and reason yet.

But Salazar surmised that changes in the log in protocols of the VRVMs may have caused the problems.

“It’s just the pilot use but we don’t know exactly what caused the problems. Maybe because we changed the protocols before. During our training of the election inspectors, the protocol was for the chairperson to log in to the VRVMs. But the protocol was changed with the poll clerk as the one who will log in to the machine. Since the chairpersons were already logged in, the poll clerks were unable to do so because of credential problems,” he added.

In Iloilo City, around 20 percent of the VRVMs in Iloilo City malfunctioned, said Iloilo City Elections Officer Atty. Mavil M. Sia.

“Out of the 388 clustered precincts, 20 percent of the VRVMs are not functioning. That is really our main problem because we are piloting this and it is the first time that the electoral board (EB) are using this, unlike the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) kasi we already mastered it,” Sia said in an interview on Monday.

Upon receiving reports of malfunctioning VRVMs, Sia said they called the attention of the EB to process with the manual verification through the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL).

“After receiving the calls, I already called the attention of electoral board. The VRVMs are not functioning so I told them to proceed to manual voting. Anyway, the VRVM cannot affect the votes of the voter,” she said.

In the region, only the province and city of Iloilo, Bacolod City, and Negros Occidental piloted the VRVM machines, which are used to verify if the voter is really a registered voter of the clustered precinct.

Sia added that they have sent 18 contingency units of VCMs on the metro, after receiving reports that some VCMs were rejecting the ballots.

“There are VCMs that rejected some ballots but we already sent contingency machines. We have enough contingency machines for the metro,” she assured.

Aside from glitches on the machines, Ms. Sia said that one clustered precinct in Iloilo City has corrupted SD card.

According to Sia, the corrupted SD card is positioned at clustered Barangay Monica Blumentritt in City Proper.

 “We have already notified the Comelec Project Management Office (PMO) in Manila about the problem. I am trying to bypass all protocols so that the configuration of the SD card would come in before the end of the voting hours,” she said.

Despite the glitches, Sia assured that they would ensure the transparency especially in the canvassing of votes.

“I can assure the people of Iloilo City that everything will be transparent. We allow the candidates to have watchers here,” she said.

At exactly, 3 p.m. the Iloilo Board of Canvassers headed by Ms. Sia officially convened at the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Iloilo City, Jubilee Hall on Monday.

The Iloilo City Comelec said they are targeting to proclaim the winners of the local elections before 5 p.m. on the next day.

A total of 15 local positions will be up for grabs in the metro, according to Comelec.

 The seats are for the member of the House of Representatives (1), mayor (1), vice-mayor (1) and 12 members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP).

Based on data from Comelec-Iloilo City, four bets are vying for the lone Iloilo City district seat, seven for mayoralty seat, four for vice-mayoralty and 44 bets are eyeing for the 12 seats of the SP.



Cases of mis-delivered ballots were also reported in Iloilo.

In a precinct in a barangay in Anilao, the Board of Election Inspectors found ballots meant for a precinct in San Enrique Negros Occidental

At Brgy. Bingawan, Badiangan, 113 ballots for a clustered precinct in Miagao was found.

The ballots in Badiangan were sent to Comelec-Iloilo province office and picked up by Miagao election officers.

The Anilao election officer then sent the ballots for San Enrique, Negros Occidental to the Comelec regional office.

Comelec Regional Director Nick Mendros then sent the ballots to Negros Occidental.