Defective VCMs, erroneous ballots mar voting in Region 12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 May) — The conduct of the elections in Region 12 has been “generally smooth” despite the reported technical problems with the vote-counting machines in some polling precincts, a Commission on Elections official said.

Lawyer Francisco Pobe, Comelec Region 12 director, said voting is currently ongoing in majority of the 3,438 clustered precincts in 1,158 barangays in the region.

“It’s been generally smooth as of this time. There were usual problems like missing names and voters who had difficulty finding their precincts while a number of precincts encountered technical glitches with the VCMs but they were mostly manageable,” he said in an interview as of 10 a.m. over radio station Brigada here.

For instance, the official said the VCMs in some precincts did not immediately start or power up and there were units that jammed up and failed to read the ballots.

He said a number of precincts in this city and nearby Sarangani province recorded these problems.

In North Cotabato, he said a VCM encountered system errors after scanning or processing 40 ballots.

In Koronadal City, voting was delayed in five polling precincts due to “scanner errors” with the VCMs.

But Lawyer April Mitchor, Koronadal City election officer, said they proceeded with the voting in the affected precincts after the voters agreed that the ballots would just be scanned in batches once the replacement VCMs would arrive.

She said there were available standby VCMs at the Comelec-South Cotabato provincial office in Koronadal City but they were still waiting for the decision from the central office regarding their deployment.

The same problem was also reported in two polling precincts in Barangay Dajay in Surallah and another in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Pobe said they already reported these problems to the Comelec’s national technical support center and at the same time instructed the board of election inspectors and assigned VCM technicians to try to remedy the problems.

“There were cases wherein the problems were fixed after the re-attachment of the SD (secure digital cards) and the resetting of the placement of the VCMs,” he said.

Aside from these, Pobe said voting was hampered at a clustered precinct at the Malalag Elementary School in Maitum, Sarangani Province due to erroneous ballots.

He said poll personnel discovered at the opening of the precinct at 6 am that the delivered ballots were for a precinct in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque province.

The affected clustered precinct has a total of 667 voters from original precincts 004A, 4B, 5A at 5B.

“The replacement ballots are on their way to Maitum while those for Marinduque will be airlifted via Cebu later today,” Pobe said.

In terms of peace and order, the official said the entire region also remained relative peaceful and with no major security-related incident recorded. (MindaNews)