All set for the vote

Published by rudy Date posted on May 10, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – All is set for today’s automated elections.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday reported that preparations for the country’s first fully automated elections were 98 percent complete.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines as well as the reconfigured compact flash (CF) cards that would be used in today’s elections have all been delivered to their designated polling precincts across the country.

“We have all the reason to smile because all the CF cards, ballot boxes and the PCOS machines are already in place in voting places,” Melo said at a news conference yesterday.

With only hours to go before the actual voting, Melo said the testing and sealing of the PCOS machines had not yet been completed.

“The testing and sealing in the entire Luzon are already 98 to 99 percent complete,” Melo said.

He said the remaining two percent was due to difficulty in reaching remote polling precincts in Tineg, Abra and some barangays in Ilocos Sur located in the mountains.

Melo said some PCOS machines that were delivered earlier had to be replaced because of some technical problems.

He said the Comelec was also addressing problems in connection with clustering some precincts in Mindanao.

“Even with the problem of clustering, we are already prepared for the conduct of polls in Mindanao, including Basilan where officials reported 70 percent completion of work,” Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento added.

Even the province of Maguindanao and Bukidnon is already 100 percent prepared for the elections, Sarmiento said.

“Our preparations are on track and we expect to complete the preparations before elections.”

Sarmiento said some of PCOS machines that were destroyed by suspected communist rebels in Mindanao and Iloilo were immediately replaced.

“Based from the report from our people on the ground the testing and sealing is almost 70 to 75 percent complete as of last night,” Sarmiento said.

The worst scenario that the Comelec could foresee is that two percent of the over 76,000 polling precincts would not receive new CF cards, but that is even better than the previous projection of five percent, he said.

Melo explained the voting in some precincts would proceed even without CF cards but the counting would be done after the last vote has been cast.

Areas that have yet to receive the CF cards include Northern Samar, the town of Tineg in Abra and Nueva Vizcaya, where there are less than million voters.

Smartmatic spokesman Cezar Flores said around 60 to 70 percent of votes are expected to be counted by election night and the rest within 36 hours.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) would be getting initial election results but a ladderized canvassing has to be observed.

High turnout expected

A record high number of voters are expected to troop to polling precincts nationwide to participate in the country’s first automated elections.

The Comelec said they are expecting some 50,850,938 registered voters to go out.

“We expect a good number of about 80 to 85 percent turnout of voters in today’s elections,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento pointed out that in the 2007 elections, Comelec recorded only about 70 percent turnout with 64 percent in the 2004 elections.

“But since this is a presidential elections and this is the first automated polls in the country, we see higher turnout of voters,” Sarmiento said.

Larrazabal, for his part, assured the public that all efforts were exerted to address all the problems and ensure orderly and successful elections.

Larrazabal reminded voters to choose their candidates wisely and not to vote in excess of the required number of candidates in the position so as not to spoil the ballot.

“Also come early to voting places and shade the whole oval (properly),” Larrazabal pointed out.

Melo also advised voters to come prepared with their list of candidates.

“There could be long lines of voters so please go to polling places early. Don’t sell your votes or allow candidates and supporters to threaten you. Let us keep this election as clean as possible,” Melo stressed.

Some 230,000 public school teachers who would be serving as Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) have also prepared for the elections today.

Education Secretary Mona Dumlao-Valisno said the teachers are excited, as well as apprehensive, about their new poll duties.

“It will be a historic day as we hold our first ever automated elections. It’s something we’re looking forward to with excitement,” Valisno said.

She said the initial reports from the teachers from all over the country that helped in the testing and resealing of the PCOS machines had been encouraging.

Valisno said the teachers reported the testing and resealing the PCOS machines had been successful.

“There are no more worries. It has given a big, big relief to our teachers,” Valisno said.

“We have been preparing for this for a long time and I am confident of the readiness of our BEIs in the different clustered precincts across the country,” she said.

Benjamin Basas, leader of a federation of teachers groups nationwide, said the final testing and sealing of the PCOS machines were “generally successful.”

“There were a few isolated cases where the PCOS machines encountered problems but these were few and minor issues,” Basas said.

Basas, who himself will head a BEI in a precinct in Caloocan City, said that with the delivery and testing of the PCOS machines, the public school teachers are now ready to perform their new tasks.

“While we know we are ready, many teachers are still nervous of things that may go wrong, of PCOS machines that may fail to work properly. We are nervous of course, (but) we’re excited also to have a major role in this historic event,” Basas said.

Education department spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the teachers have been instructed to call the Comelec operations centers for any problem regarding the PCOS machines.

Malaya said the Comelec has committed to provide a technician for every clustered precinct on election day.

No delaying tactic

With the automated elections, Comelec Commissioner Nicodemus Ferrer said the Comelec is expecting fewer electoral protests since the results would be more accurate.

“We don’t really expect wide discrepancies in the counting of votes that is why we are also expecting fewer election protest this time,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer also assured the public that the Comelec would conduct random manual audit in selected polling precincts to verify election results.

Ferrer said candidates could avail of the results of random manual audit in filing their complaint although it might not be practical in the sense that there would be no discrepancy in the results of the random manual audit and electronically transmitted canvassing.

The Comelec ruled out the filing of any pre-proclamation protest in order to prevent delay in the counting and proclamation of winners.

The Comelec said the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) would not entertain any manifestation or opposition in the results unless a petition or manifestation is submitted.

If there would be a written manifestation or petition, the NBOC would determine whether there is a proper cause of action on the grounds of discrepancy, incompleteness, erasure or alteration of results.

The NBOC could automatically defer the canvass of the contested certificate of canvass within 24 hours following the filing of manifestation should there be probable cause.

To ensure an effective and uninterrupted transmission of results, the Comelec directed the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to deploy information technology (IT) experts to the National Data Centers.

The Comelec has deputized the DOST “to make available its IT capable personnel to provide technical support/assistance in the National Data Centers.”

The Comelec has established the National Data Centers with the following servers for the transmission of the election results that included the Comelec central server, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KPB), and a backup server. –-Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) with Rainier Allan Ronda, Helen Flores

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