Comelec suspends deliveries of PCOS in Cebu due to glitch

05/05/10 - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has suspended the deployment of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to various precints in the province following the discovery of glitches which were eventually traced to defective flash cards.

Cebu provincial election supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano said around 20 percent of the PCOS machines were so far distributed since Monday before the suspension order was issued.

The Comelec said most of the PCOS machines were delivered in Cebu City and Mandaue City schools.

Castillano said the suspension order was issued after the testing and sealing of the PCOS machines in Metro Manila showed that the electronic results of the votes cast for local candidates did not match with the manual count results.

Reports from Manila also said that some PCOS machines only read the votes cast for national level.

The errors were eventually traced to faulty flash cards which will now be recalled and replaced.

Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said the suspension would not be lifted until the configuration for the local positions was corrected.

“In order to facilitate said correction, the PCOS should stay in the hubs instead of being deployed to the different polling centers,” Tolentino added.

PCOS machines already deployed should remain in the precints.

The Comelec also suspended the final testing and sealing of the PCOS machines.

“Since the conduct of yesterday's final testing and sealing in some areas revealed glitches in the configuration for local positions, there is a need to suspend the conduct of final testing and sealing in all areas until such time as the configuration for local positions shall have been corrected,” the Comelec order said.

On May 7, the Comelec will simultaneously test and seal the machines to prepare the PCOS for the May 10 elections.

Around 3,065 PCOS machines arrived in Cebu City last month and were kept in a warehouse.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. yesterday said a manual count should be conducted parallel with the automated election which would be implemented in the country for the first time.

“We should have parallel manual count because election cannot be stopped,” he said.

Davide said it was unacceptable for Comelec to reason out that defects on the machines were not detected earlier because these had not been tested.

“Comelec may be using this as an excuse. Comelec should take full control of the situation,” he said.

He said plans to have the defected machines replaced were a waste of time.

He said it was possible for cheating to be done by deliberately making the PCOs machines malfunction.

“They could resort to the destruction of the machines so that the result would not be forwarded to Comelec Manila and the end result is to cause delay in the national proclamation,” said Davide.

Another way to cheat, he said, is to make people wait too long to discourage them from casting their votes.

Davide said it was unwise for Comelec to cluster precincts to accommodate at least 1, 000 voters each.

He said that delays in voting could discourage people from voting and go home home instead without casting their votes.

Voters should only be limited to 500 voters per precinct, he said.

Reacting to the recall of the flash cards of the PCOS, the Liberal Party in Cebu called anew for a parallel manual count considering the uncertainty brought about by the flaws of the automation system.

LP Cebu spokesperson Joselito Ramon Castillo, however, did not mention any specific steps the party would take as they are still awaiting advise from their Information Technology experts.

While the law is for a poll automation, it does not prohibit a parallel manual count, said Castillo during a press conference.

But One Cebu Party believes there is no need for a parallel manual count—a stand which Governor Gwen Garcia also announced last week.

Her spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda yesterday reiterated the governor’s stand despite the problems with the memory cards of the PCOS machines.

“But if you ask me as of now, we still maintain that there is no need for a parallel manual count,” said Sepulveda. “We are concerned about it but we still have trust and confidence that the Comelec can perform their task mandated by the Constitution.”

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena is also worried there would be a failure of election because of the glitches noted during the testing of the PCOS machines in Manila.

Osmena said it would be better to postpone the elections and go back to the manual system or look for ways to address the problem with elections just five days away.

He said there is a high probability there will be a failure of elections because it's a new system that has not been tested before.

“I prefered to go back to manual. You know they can't pursue this kind of election. This exercise using the standards that I'm accustomed to in evaluating the risk, the risk is very high, because it's a new system that is untested,” he added.

He said the new system like automated election should be tested very well even in small towns or two towns with already a back up system, so that in case something goes wrong the commissioners are there who can instruct immediately to cancell it or to do something to address it.

“Now we're going to have a serious problem. I'm really not familiar with the details, but if it doesn't work, if it has not worked in the testing, the whole issue is already damaging. Even if it works on the election, no one will believe it. Because losers always think they are cheated,” Osmena said. (CebuDailyNews)

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