Glitches mar mock polls in Quezon City

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- The first full blown mock elections for the May 13 midterm polls got off to a bad start – at least at the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) in Quezon City.

Immediately after the opening of the polling precinct, which was graced by no less than Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes, the initialization of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine hit a snag after the password of the Board of Election Inspector (BEI) chairman was repeatedly rejected.

Brillantes explained that the initialization problem can be attributed to the "rustiness" of the PCOS machines.

"Yung PCOS natin was used in 2010. Nagpahinga ng tatlong taon or dalawang taon mahigit. Medyo papainitin mo lang ng konti. It's the first time that we are using it again," Brillantes told reporters.

Initialization is the process wherein the BEI will make sure that there are no votes or entries stored in the PCOS machine's memory as proven by an initialization report to be generated by the machine afterwards.

Aside from passwords, the ballots of the first four voters were also repeatedly rejected by the PCOS machines, prompting the BEI to finally replace the unit.

But according to Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez, the ballots could have been rejected by the PCOS machines due to the improper handling of the ballots by the voter.

"These are pure speculations on my part based on what I was able to see. Again, this is part of the election process. On election day, we have 81,000 machines for 76,000 precincts," he added.

To note, each voter has four chances of trying to feed the accomplished ballots in four different orientations: face-up head first, face-up end first, down face head first, and down face end first before their ballots can be considered rejected.

Jimenez said the problem only affects the specific machine and that voting proceeded smoothly after it was replaced.

Janice Mejila, the first voter to participate in the mock elections held at the UPIS at Barangay UP Campus, said she was dismayed when the ballot she fed into the PCOS machine was rejected.

"I hope next time they (Comelec) will make sure that the machines are functioning properly," Mejila told Sun.Star in an interview.

Jimenez said the Comelec technical personnel will also assess the PCOS machines and their performances after the mock polls in order to see why some rejected the password and the ballots.

The voting center at UPIS is just one of the 20 identified voting centers in 10 areas around the country that simultaneously held the mock elections Saturday.

Mock polls were also held in Bagong Lipunan ng Crame (P. Bernardo High School) in Quezon City; fifth district of Manila (Epifanio delos Santos Elementary School and Herminigildo Atienza Elementary School); Iriga City (Iriga Central School and Sta. Teresita Elementary School), and the Municipality of Bato (Bato North Elementary School and Atipolo Elementary School), in Camarines Sur; Dumaguete City (City Central Elementary School and Camanjac Elementary School) and the Municipality of Sta. Catalina (Santa Catalina North Central School and Kabulacan Elementary School), in Negros Oriental; Cagayan de Oro City (City Central School and Balulang Elementary School) and the Municipality of Initao (Initao Central School and Oguis Elementary School), in Misamis Oriental; and the Municipalities of Bongao (Lamion Walking Blackboard Elementary School and Simandagit Elementary School) in Tawi Tawi; and Buluan (Pilot Elementary School and Talitay Elementary School) in Maguindanao.

The mock polls mimicked the entire voting process on election beginning with the PCOS initialization up until the transmission of votes both directly to the Central Server in Cabuyao, Laguna, and through the step-by-step process from the precinct, to the municipal canvassing centers, to the provincial canvassing centers and to the central/national server.

Before noon, other areas where the mock polls were held already had their successful transmission to the central server.

"Comelec servers in Cabuyao, Laguna have received PCOS results transmissions from Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental, and Misamis Oriental," said Brillantes.

Because of this, the poll chief said he believes that the overall conduct of the mock polls has been successful except for a few glitches at the start.

"Our reports from the provinces are okay pa din. We have not received any adverse report from the provinces so far… We have some initial minor problems here but everything has settled down now," said Brillantes.

"Except for a glitch in one precinct, mock elections going on smoothly nationwide. No major problem reported so far," he further said.

Asked whether he does not see the glitch as an ominous sign for the forthcoming midterm elections, the Comelec chair said they welcome such incidents.

"We are able to check the deficiencies this early. It's a very good sign," declared Brillantes.

The mock polls in Quezon City shall be conducted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as it will involve an estimated 1,639 potential voters while all the other voting centers only ran from 7 a.m. to 10 am involving a combined 900 prospective voters.

Comelec chairman Brillantes said Comelec is only using test ballots during the dry run and that the printing of the official ballots with security features will start Monday, February 4.

In the mock polls, voters were able to vote for names of Hollywood celebrities for senator while local music bands were used as names in the party-list elections.

"On a lighter note, Tom Cuise, Mariah Carey & Neil Armstrong are among the senatorial candidates in the mock elections," noted Brillantes over his Twitter account, @ChairBrillantes. (Kathrina Alvarez/HDT/Sunnex)

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