Friday, 7 May 2010

New PCOS test results ‘perfect’

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—“It seems that our prayers have been answered.”

And Comelec Chair Jose Melo is smiling again.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday announced that the testing and sealing of voting machines had resumed two days after the process was halted and that the results were “perfect.”

Melo told a news conference that field reports showed that the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the country’s first automated elections on Monday were giving a 100-percent accurate reading of the ballots.

On Monday, tests were halted because of the wrong configuration of the compact flash (CF) cards that caused the PCOS to incorrectly read the ballots, raising concerns that the historic balloting will not happen.

The glitch prompted the recall of 76,300 CF cards and the Comelec is now scrambling to replace them in time for the elections.

“Now I am again smiling,” Melo said. “Elections will go through in all levels, in all precincts. What will happen here is Smartmatic will distribute all the flash cards.”

Flanked by six poll commissioners, Melo said that prayers at an ecumenical service for clean and orderly elections led by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Wednesday may have been effective.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the testing and sealing of PCOS machines in three clustered precincts in Makati City, one of the areas where the votes were miscounted during Monday’s trial, went smoothly Thursday.

Cesar Flores, president for Comelec’s automation partner Smartmatic-TIM, said the company hoped to complete the delivery of the reconfigured flash cards to the municipalities by Saturday.

Better than expected

“We’re very happy to announce that plans are moving. It’s even better than expected. We have more than 35,000 cards configured and we just received that confirmation that testing and sealing started,” Flores said.

New memory cards have already been dispatched to provinces like Antique, Bohol, Cavite, Guimaras Island, Abra, Batanes and Quirino, he noted, and the deliveries are expected to be completed by Saturday and Sunday.

Testing and sealing can be done after the cards are in the hands of the board of election inspectors (BEI) in time for Monday’s balloting beginning at 7 a.m., Flores said.

With the machines working properly, Melo said there was no reason to postpone the national and local elections. Politicians who want to reschedule the polls only want to have more time to campaign, he said.

There would be no need for manual count too as the ballots were read accurately.

“Manual count is out of the question definitely,” Melo said. The manual appreciation of ballots would only happen in the case of machine breakdown, which he said is a “remote possibility.”

Voting delays likely

Melo said the Comelec was preparing for a “worst-case scenario” where elections would be delayed by a few hours in 5 percent of the 76,300 precincts, around 3,800 in all. He said this translated to around 3.3 million voters.

The delay in the delivery of the flash cards does not mean that the elections would be rescheduled, he said.

According to the Comelec’s plan, voters may cast their ballots in areas where the machines do not have flash cards.

These ballots would be deposited in the locked ballot boxes. Upon the arrival of the memory cards and after they have been tested and sealed the BEIs will retrieve the ballots and feed these to the PCOS.

“All will be able to vote and their votes will be counted,” Melo said.

According to Melo, Smartmatic-TIM could not commit to deliver the compact flash cards before balloting begins at 7 a.m. on Monday in some municipalities in 14 provinces because of security and logistical concerns.

Included in the list is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, considered to be the country’s cheating capital.

Military support

Smartmatic-TIM said it could not reach the municipal treasurers of Negros Occidental, Isabela, Basilan, Cagayan, Maguindanao, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

“In this case, we will need the support of the Armed Forces to ship those boxes from the provincial capitol up to the respective municipalities. We can deliver this in the provincial capitol on May 7th and 8th,” Smartmatic-TIM said in its letter to the Comelec.

The Comelec said it had been coordinating with the police and the military for the safe passage of election paraphernalia in these provinces.


According to Flores, the reconfiguration of each card takes only about 10 minutes. It then undergoes testing with the ballots. There are 80 machines at the testing area in Cabuyao, Laguna. Each station can process 40 cards per hour. The operation is round-the-clock.

With 18,000 backup cards left at its warehouse, Smartmatic is now expecting the 14,000 cards from Taiwan and 30,000 from China to arrive in Cabuyao Saturday.

Customs Commissioner Napoleon L. Morales said it was facilitating the release of the shipments.

The rest of the cards needed to fill up the 76,000 PCOS machines would come as the recycled cards.

PCOS deployment

Flores said about 60,000 remaining cards that would be left unused would be turned over to the Comelec for quarantine.

In Cebu City, the Comelec regional offices in Eastern and Central Visayas Thursday resumed the deployment of the PCOS machines under tight guarding by the police and military personnel.

Director Jose Nick Mendros said the machines were being deployed in Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Biliran and Leyte.

A truckload of soldiers on their way to secure the transfer of counting machines in a town in Masbate was hit by a roadside bomb Thursday but no injuries were reported among the 12 men aboard the truck, military officials said.

AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the blast at Pawikan village in Palanas town was the first recorded in relation to the delivery of the machines. With reports from Ronnel W. Domingo, Jocelyn R. Uy, Miko Morelos, Beverly Natividad and Tina G. Santos; Maricar Cinco and Rey Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Nestor Burgos Jr., Jhunnex Napallacan, Carla Gomez, Joey Gabieta, Jani Arnaiz and Rachel Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas

1 comment:

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