Comelec sees no widespread failure of PCOS machines

Posted at 01/26/2010 10:10 AM | Updated as of 01/26/2010 10:10 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A Commission on Elections (Comelec) official said Tuesday that they are anticipating some voting machines to malfunction, but assured that statistically, it will not affect the outcome of the May 10 elections.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, head of the poll automation steering committee, said voters would have to recast their votes manually if voting machines assigned in their precincts will not work properly on May 10.

"But that will not happen all over the Philippines. That's statistically not possible and they will not happen all over the country," Larrazabal said.

He added: "What's important is that the voters will be able to cast their votes, the votes will be counted, the counted votes will be canvassed, and winning candidates can be proclaimed."

Larrazabal said more problematic would be the transmission of votes cast on the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in remote areas.

He said this has something to do with the mobile networks' signal. In case this happens, he said the Comelec has another backup plan, which is the transmission of cast votes via satellite.

Larrazabal said they are expecting all 82,000 machines promised by the winning group, Smarmatic-TIM, to be delivered on February 21.

Before all the machines arrive, the Comelec is expected to finish lab testing 72 voting machines. Ten more machines will be subjected to field tests in selected areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao on January 27, the Comelec commissioner said.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez clarified that the field tests will still be "largely internal" because they would still be testing the security functions of the automated system.

Jimenez said the field tests would be conducted in 5 areas in Benguet, Cebu, Mindanao, Naga City and Taguig City. "In each location there will be one rural and one urban setting," he added.

He said that if field tests turn out positive, the public or a selected number of registered voters will be asked to participate in the machines' testing through mock elections that will be conducted on February 6.

He clarified that the Comelec is not actually testing the voting machines, but the whole automated election system.

"This is the end-to-end testing of the whole automation system. It's not the number of machines, it's the system that is being tested now," he said.

Larrazabal had announced that several voting machines have already passed the lab testing being conducted at the Comelec's warehouse in Laguna province.

He said they were able to feed ballots to the voting machines. He said the machines counted the votes, printed election returns and fed it to the database.