ARMM, other provinces may not get flash cards on time

Posted at 05/06/2010 4:01 PM | Updated as of 05/07/2010 2:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Problems in the country's first ever nationwide automated elections continued to mount Thursday as officials confirmed that clustered precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other provinces may only get compact flash cards for automated voting machines on Election Day itself.

Smartmatic Southeast Asia President Cesar Flores said more than 30,000 new memory cards have been reconfigured, tested and are ready for deployment. He added that new memory cards were shipped out to Antique, Bohol, Capiz, Guimaras, Abra, Batanes, Quirino, Makati, Parañaque, Marikina, Batangas, and Palawan Wednesday night.

He admitted, however, that the reconfigured memory cards might not be able to reach 5% of the country  on time due to security and logistical challenges. He said the worst that can happen is that the memory cards will arrive in the polling centers on Election Day itself.

This includes all municipalities in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Misamis Occidental, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur. Other places where the flash cards will be delayed are Toboso, Negros Occidental; Divilacan, Maconaco and Palanan in Isabela; Calayan, Cagayan; and Baliguian, Sibuco, Siocon and Sirawai in Zamboanga del Norte.

Flores said delays in the delivery of the flash cards means that the voting machines will not be ready by May 10 since they first have to be tested and sealed. However, the voting process will still continue as stated in the continuity plan of the Commission on Elections.

What will happen is that voters will still fill up their ballots but will not be allowed to insert their ballots into the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Instead, the boards of election inspectors will collect the ballots,  store them in the ballot box and wait for the new memory cards to arrive.

Upon receipt of the cards, the BEIs need to install them into the PCOS machines, test the machines and seal the memory cards. Once all preliminary procedures are done, the BEIs will feed all accomplished ballots to the machine for automated counting and transmission.

Flores said the new memory cards must be tested first and the machines sealed before they are used for counting and transmission.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo ruled out a proposal to revert to a manual count and reiterated that the automated nationwide election will push through as scheduled on May 10. He added that if things still go wrong, the Comelec is prepared for manual elections in 30% of the country and that the necessary forms have been printed and are already on standby.