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Malfunctioning VCMs reported

VISITOR. A US Embassy representative observes the election proceedings in Albay. RHAYDZ B. BARCIA

LEGAZPI CITY---The United States Embassy to the Philippines on Monday sent a representative to observe the proceedings of midterm election here.

Rhonda A. Roberts of the US Embassy went around the polling precincts in Bagumbayan Elementary School. She said she also went to Gogon Elementary School but begged not to discuss other details of her observation visit.

But Roberts was able to witness malfunctioning Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) in some polling precincts here.

The malfunctioning VCMs, according to the members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BOI), caused delay in the transmittal of election results for both national and local elections.

Cherry Dado Cruz, chairman of the Board of Elections in one of the precincts in Bagumbayan Elementary School confirmed incidents of delayed transmittals.

In her precincts under her jurisdiction, the VCM bogged down since 8:10 in the morning and remained non-functional until 4:00 in the afternoon of the same day, causing much delay.

Because of the malfunctioning machine, voters had to leave their ballots on the table after casting their votes even as Cruz assured the public that their ballots would be protected and remain untampered.

Many voters expressed their disgust and criticized the Commission on Elections for failure to check thoroughly the VCM machines after all the years of preparation for the midterm polls.

Former Albay Vice Governor Jesus “James” Calisin questioned the integrity of midterm polls results as the sanctity of the ballots are now exposed to many.

Calisin said that in Barangay Bantayan, Tabaco City, the VCM did not function. “The VCM did not function, so no voters receipt. In this case, voting should not proceed but they proceeded. The ballots were just collected. The votes are now exposed to many,” he said.

“Thus, violations have been committed because the voter is not anymore the one to feed the ballot to the VCM; the voter can’t check his votes absent of a receipt; the ballots and votes are now exposed to BEIs, among others,” he said.

As a result, Calisin continued: “Ballots can be replaced since the voter can’t check anymore his votes; ballots can be replaced by whomsoever by the command of someone. This is a big problem if this too happens everywhere.”

Neil Canicula, election supervisor of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed early on Monday morning that there were 17 VCMs reported in Albay to have malfunctioned while 22 VCMs more were reported in Legazpi City.

Canicula said the VCMs that failed to operate had minor defects when checked by the agency technician, mostly on the SD card, that needs to be reconfigured.

At least 1,218 VCMs were dispatched in the three cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco and 15 more towns in Albay.

The malfunctioning VCM machines emitted smoke, bogged down, corrupted SD cards, and rejected ballots.

In Camarines Sur, 20 of the 1,753 VCMs have been reported to have malfunctioned since the opening on Monday of polling precincts in the towns of Bula, Sagnay, Canaman, Siruma, Ocampo, Bombon, Magarao, Tigaon, Tinambac, Nabua, Del Gallego and the cities of Iriga and Naga.

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