PCOS glitches, lapses seen in mock polls

Posted at 02/02/13 3:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Election watchdogs on Saturday monitored glitches in precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and minor lapses in the mock elections conducted by the Commission of Elections (Comelec) ahead of the midterm polls this year.

The problems include a precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine not accepting ballots of voters in Barangay UP Campus, Quezon City.

"For this particular polling place, the first PCOS machine failed (because of an) initialization problem, " said Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Chairperson Tita de Villa. "They changed it to contingency PCOS machine and that one worked."

Meanwhile, PCOS transmission failures also marred mock elections in Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, and Cagayan de Oro.

Commision on Elections Commissioner Grace Padaca, who inspected the mock polls in the provinces, said they will correct all the PCOS glitches in time for the May elections.

De Villa said the Comelec quickly solved technical glitches involving some PCOS machines.

"Sa Dumaguete, okay din. Nagkaron lang ng hitch in one place, na-transmit sa Comelec server pero sa isang server di pa na-setup," she said.

The PPCRV chief said she is glad that the glitches surfaced during the mock polls, which allowed election officials to implement emergency measures.

"I'm actually happy," de Villa told ANC. "While I was initially nervous, I'm glad it happened because you saw there's a contingency plan in place."

Meanwhile, National Citizen's Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Secretary General Eric Alvia said they also monitored problems with some PCOS machines.

The glitches include incorrect initialization of the devices by poll officers.

"We've been focusing too much on PCOS machine," he said. "The weakest link to the component might be the Achilles heel. Here, it's just a thermal paper, but again it failed to initialize the machine."

Alvia also said PCOS machines' transmission of data should be made transparent to prevent doubts in the automated elections.

"There were concerns on the transmission. It's up to Comelec to call the shots," he told ANC.

He said the mock polls will allow the Comelec to finetune the process ahead of the May elections.

"The mock polls is really to test the system," he said. "We can validate certain things that have worked."

Alvia said it's still too early to tell whether or not the 2013 elections will be successful.

He said the challenge for the Comelec and election watchdogs is to encourage voters to participate in the elections.

De Villa, meanwhile, also noted other minor lapses and a low turnout in the mock polls.

"We've expressed concern to Comelec about voters bringing cellphones," she said. "May mga nagte-text kaya tumatagal. That can't be so Comelec is doing some rules on what to do with cellphones."

She said the Comelec should address the issue of voters who bring their children with them to polling precincts.

"We also know this is very Filipino. Mahirap saan mo ilalagay mga bata. There should be holding area for children," she said.

Brillantes: Smooth despite glitches

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes on Saturday said the mock polls has gone smoothly save for some hiccups involving PCOS machines.

Brillantes said there were no major problems in other precincts -- so far.

He explained that the mock election is meant to test the transmission and the entire voting process.

The polling has closed in all of the precints except for Quezon City, where a full simulation is being conducted.

A board of canvassers will conduct a random audit at 7 p.m.

Depending on the outcome, Brillantes said they may conduct another round of mock elections.

2013 polls better

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, on the other hand, expects a better conduct of elections this year compared to the 2010 automated elections.

Reacting to the conduct of mock elections, Larrazabal said the commission has about 100 days before May 13 to address the possible problems, orient board of election inspectors on PCOS machines, and conduct information disemmination for voters.

He also advised voters not to wait until election day to familiarize themselves with their precinct numbers.

Larrazabal noted that aside from possible technical glitches that may arise with using the PCOS machines, stakeholders should continue to watch out for lapses in procedure to ensure the success of the polls.

"There will still be vote buying, violence," he said. "When you look at automated elections, people forget to see that the procedures are equally, if not more important. You can have the best system in the world but if its not run properly, there will still be vote buying disenfranschisement of elections violence." - with reports from ANC