Minor glitches? Defective PCOS machines mar voting in Bukidnon, Zambo Sibugay

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 May) — Reports of defective precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines delayed the voting process in several clustered precincts across Mindanao Monday, resulting in the disenfranchisement of many voters.

In various precincts across Bukidnon some PCOS machines either bogged down or rejected the ballots fed into them.

In Barangay Kisolon, Sumilao town a PCOS machine bogged down at 7:20am Monday after accepting eight ballots. It was replaced with another unit by 10am.

In Maramag town the machine assigned to the polling place at the Maramag Central Elementary School that clustered precincts 02D, 3A, 3B, and 3C conked out at 7:45am. It was replaced by another unit which also bogged down by 12:30pm forcing the Board of Election Inspectors to proceed with the voting and store the ballots in the ballot box.

Ma. Denia Matabalan, chair of the cluster’s board of election inspector said they were not half way in the vote. She said they tried various remedies before deciding to proceed without ballot scanning. The ballots were stored in the ballot box

Many voters in the same clustered precinct queued for long hours to cast their vote. One of them was incumbent Mayor Alicia Resus who said she and her family had been waiting for eight hours.

Thousands of voters were still queuing at 3pm at the Maramag Central Elementary School even if it had started to rain by then. They squeezed under umbrellas, sheds and trees to avoid getting wet.

Those who managed to fit in the corridors cramped into compressed lines. But some opted to go home even before they could vote.

In Valencia City, a clustered precinct housed in Room 17 at the city central school, voting proceeded without ballot optical scanning yet as the PCOS machine had bogged down.

As of 6pm Monday, the Commission on Elections provincial office had received reports that at least 29 machines malfunctioned.

Provincial election supervisor Carlito Ravelo said the province’s 20 towns and two cities have one spare PCOS machine each aside from the four extra machines at the Commission on Elections provincial office.

In Valencia, some voters complained that their names were not on the Comelec’s master lists, according to Roving Amvat, coordinator of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Barangay Lumbo.

Ma. Luz Sumalinog, city PPCRV coordinator said she feared a low voter turnout in Lumbo due to the summer heat. In clustered precinct 135, the biggest in the area, only 344 of 989 registered voters had voted as of 1:45pm. Voters complained of having to queue for hours aside from having to skip lunch.

In Aglayan, Malaybalay City, Avelina Sotto, 54, and her family spent almost three hours Monday morning looking for her name in the barangay’s 20 precincts. Her husband and two sons had already voted.

At least 14 others in the barangay shared Sotto’s ordeal. She told MindaNews her family was surprised because she had voted in the past three elections in the same precinct, 44B.

“I’m sad and disappointed. It is as if I’m already dead. Why is my name not on the list?” she added.

However, the names of at least 10 people who were already dead were still on the lists of voters in Aglayan.

Nita Robillos, PPCRV chair in Aglayan said the Comelec can solve the perennial problem of missing names of voters by posting the lists in the barangays before the election itself.

“Why this has not been done is a big mystery to us. Always, in every election, people find trouble looking for [their] names,” she added.

The transmission of the results from the towns of Bukidnon was also delayed. As of 7:05 am Tuesday only the results from Sumilao, Lantapan Pangantucan, Don Carlos, and Libona had reached the provincial canvassing center in Malaybalay.

Among the reasons cited were poor signal in some areas and the lack of modems. In Valencia City for example, only five modems were available for the 27 PCOS machines.

In Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay, election officer Alberto Alar said that around 10 of the 64 PCOS machines had “minor glitches” causing delays in the voting process Monday. The machines either rejected the ballots or experienced paper jams.

After some troubleshooting, some of the machines again became usable. Other precincts resorted to trimming the sides of the ballots which did not fit the machines.

However, one PCOS machine was permanently shut down due to a major error. The technician, Krystal Agullana, reported that each time she performed the necessary actions to officially get the machine into its “operational state,” the message “Application Terminated Unexpectedly” appeared.

Alar decided to use the only contingency PCOS machine in Ipil which worked after a few tries.

The Comelec provincial office in Zamboanga Sibugay also received reports from the different towns that some PCOS machines had malfunctioned.

Provincial Election Supervisor Roy Prule Ediza told his election officers who encountered such problem to continue the voting process and let the BEIs bring the ballots to functioning PCOS machines and feed the ballots there using the CF cards intended for their precincts.

Alar said the voting had to continue as Comelec Chair Sixto Brilliantes had declared there would be extension of the voting hours. (Walter I. Balane with a report from Paulnazer Lontua/MindaNews)