Comelec recalls 76,000 compact flash cards nationwide

Posted at 05/04/10 6:06 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections on Tuesday said it is recalling an estimated 76,000 compact flash cards to be used in the May 10 elections after configuration errors in the flash cards caused precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to make tabulation errors during Monday’s mock polls.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the Commission en banc decided on the nationwide recall after poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM admitted that configuration errors in the flash cards caused the glitches.

"Instead of identifying specific places, we've just gone ahead and decided to treat this as a systemic problem. We're treating it as if it affects the entire system. So we will be pulling out the flash cards of all the PCOS machines to be used in the May elections and replacing them with new ones," Jimenez told ANC.

Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin backed the nationwide recall, adding that there is not enough time to test the ballot layout for each jurisdiction as proposed by Smartmatic.

Locsin, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Elections, said news media should be vigilant on the delivery of the reconfigured compact flash cards after the discovery of the configuration error. "While replacing 76,000 flash cards can be done, there has to be a warehouse where these cards are stored," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Smartmatic Southeast Asia president Cesar Flores earlier admitted the company made an error in the configuration of the flash compact discs, which is supposed to give each PCOS machine its identification number, the list of candidates it is counting and what type of ballot it is reading.

He said the configuration in the flash cards is different from the generic firmware in each PCOS machine. "By itself, the software has no name or no information about candidates or the precincts. What gives the machines the precinct specific information is a configuration file that is put in the compact flash memory, which is external," he said.

Flores said double spaces in the layout of the local ballot caused the PCOS machines to misread the votes for the local races, causing the tabulation errors. He said one reason for the configuration error was Smartmatic’s failure to test the machines on real ballots after the Comelec refused to overprint the number of ballots.

For his part, Jimenez said Smartmatic-TIM will need to send the newly reconfigured flash cards to the clustered precincts before Friday so that boards of election inspectors could start the testing and sealing procedures of the PCOS machines on May 7.

He added that despite the problems, the Comelec will not ask for a postponement of the May 10 elections.