By Mark Pere Madrona, VERA Files
With just five days before the midterm polls, the Commission on Elections announced that defective precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines should be transported immediately to the poll body’s warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna for repair.
The order came amidst reports that some PCOS machines malfunctioned during the final series of testings done around the country since last week.
In a statement, Julio Thaddeus Hernan, director of Comelec’s administrative services department, instructed Comelec field offices to coordinate with Airfreight 2100 (Air21) and 2GO Express Logistics in sending the defective machines back to Laguna. The two freight and cargo forwarding firms are tasked to distribute voting machines and other election paraphernalia as part of their P 1.4 billion contract with the poll body.
Local Comelec offices can bring the defective machines to an Air21 or 2Go branch within their area. They can also ask representatives from the said two firms to retrieve the machines from the polling center where it is currently stored.
Under the supervision of concerned election officers or the provincial election supervisors, Air21 and 2Go will then transport the machines to the Comelec warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna. The facility is managed by the poll body’s Project Management Office.
Repaired/replacement PCOS machines will then be turned over to the Packing and Shipping Committee of Comelec for documentation before being brought back to Air21 and 2Go for dispatching. Hernan emphasized that the total inventory of PCOS machines in affected areas should be maintained.
Meanwhile, members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) can use their back-up PCOS units for Election Day, while repaired/replaced voting machines can be used as the backup instead. Hernan noted that there are 156 PCOS units stored in their Laguna facility which can be distributed to requesting Comelec field offices.
The testing of PCOS machine around the country since has been marred by hardware glitches, including the machine’s failure to start properly and the mismatch between PCOS vote count and manual tally. There was also some confusion among school officials on what to do with defective PCOS machines.
Rosarito Septimo, principal of Mandaluyong High School, complained that there were no instructions on how to handle malfunctioning PCOS machines. “Those should be replaced. Or at least, re-testings should be done,” he said. His school expects around 10,000 voters on May 13.
According to Bobby Tuazon, co-convener of Automated Election System (AES) Watch, these developments “contradict the self-proclaimed success of COMELEC Chair Brillantes.” His group is pushing for a full parallel manual count on Election Day “to determine the accuracy of the Smartmatic-marketed automation technology.”
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)