Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New glitch halts deliveries of PCOS machines

The deliveries of the remaining Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in several parts of the country have been suspended after a new glitch was discovered during Monday's testing in some areas in Luzon.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), after meeting with poll equipment supplier Smartmatic-TIM executives, issued the suspension and recall order after receiving numerous reports that the machines failed to read the votes for local officials and did not match the manual count conducted by the Board of Election Inspectors.

In Zamboanga City, poll watchdogs said the problem might be a sign that the elections on May 10 will not be as flawless as Comelec had projected.

Ari Regino, provincial coordinator for the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), said they earlier warned Comelec about this technical problem.

They are also worried that there is too much "human intervention" in the delivery of the PCOS machines.

Regino said the integrity of the machines, if pulled out again from their polling centers, may be affected. This will also affect voting during Election Day.

Francis Arroyo, vice chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said that if problems continue, there should be more than just one citizens' arm who should be allowed to observe on the day of the testing. This is to make it more transparent.

Darren Torres, the archdiocese's PPCRV coordinator for Zamboanga City, said testing of the PCOS machines should be done ahead of time so that Zamboanga City will not suffer the same problem as that experienced in Luzon.

He noted that after the machines arrive in Zamboanga City, they will be delivered from the hub to other provinces and islands, which means it will be difficult to replace them in case glitches are discovered 3 days before the elections.

In Negros Occidental, several vans loaded with PCOS machines returned to the warehouse in Bacolod after the Comelec's suspension and recall order was given.

The PCOS machines in the vans were in the process of being delivered to the cities of Cadiz, Sagay and La Carlota when the teams escorting the vans received the order to return to Bacolod.

Atty. Jessie Suarez, the provincial election supervisor, said 20% of their machines are already in the polling precincts of Negros Occidental. Most of the machines were still in the warehouse ready for delivery when the Comelec issued the suspension and recall order.

In Butuan City, ranking officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) met with Comelec Region-10 officials on Tuesday in response to the suspension and recall order.

They discussed how they will remove 3,624 flash cards from their machines and deliver them to Smartmatic-TIM in Manila.

Atty. Maria Dulce Banzon, assistant regional director for Comelec Region 10, told reporters here that the flash cards need to be replaced. The replacement flash cards would be tested on May 7, she added.

Banzon, apparently unaware of the gravity of the problem, told reporters: “We are on track. We will be ready on May 10.”

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