110 VCMs malfunction in Caraga; only 25 replacements arrive

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/10 May) – One hundred ten vote-counting machines malfunctioned in various precincts across Caraga Region on Monday, but only 25 replacements arrived from Manila on the evening of election day, an election official said.

Lawyer Renato Magbutay, Commission on Elections regional director, said the replacements were sent on a 6:35p.m. flight to Butuan City and were estimated to arrive at the affected precincts around 10p.m. Monday.

“Of the 25 that arrived, 12 will go to Agusan del Sur and the rest to Surigao del Sur. The voting continued where the machines broke down, but we had to hold the feeding and secured the ballots,” he said.

“We will wait for the replacement machines to arrive. Once they arrive then the teachers, the BEI’s will feed the ballots by batches to the machines,” he added.

Magbutay assured they already had a contingency plan for the problem.

“We have given instruction to our personnel on the ground, to our election officers, supervisors and the Board of Election Inspectors that in case the machines will not arrive on time, they can borrow a machine from the other precincts,” he said.

“We have a procedure for that, they know the procedure and we have instructed them to follow this. In single precincts, they will have to go to the canvassing, bring with them the ballots and other paraphernalia and wait for the replacement machines to arrive.

“We only got 25 because this is not just an isolated case in Caraga Region. The breakdown of machines is happening all over the Philippines,” he explained.

Chief Supt. Rolando Felix, police regional director, and Maj. General Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry Division declared the election in the region was generally peaceful.

Earlier reports said 72 VCMs malfunctioned in Surigao del Sur, 13 in Agusan del Sur, six in the island province of Dinagat, and 15 in Agusan del Norte.

In Butuan City, two machines were reported to have malfunctioned but were replaced in the afternoon.

In most cases the breakdown of VCMs was caused by paper jam. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)