Technical issues, election violations mar 2019 Philippine elections

ANY hopes for a smooth sailing election process were dashed as various issues involving vote-counting machines (VCMs) marred the 2019 midterm elections on Monday, May 13.

Of the 85,000 VCMs stationed in precincts across the Philippines, 400 to 600 experienced glitches, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez.

He noted that the problem had tripled compared to the presidential election in 2016, which only had a total of 188 machines encounter technical difficulties.

“In the overall scheme of things, that is a small number but compared to 2016, the figure is jarring,” he admitted in a press conference.

Among those who experienced issues with the VCMs were former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was unable to cast his vote as the VCM repeatedly rejected his ballot, and incumbent Senator Grace Poe, who could not cast her vote as well until a new VCM arrived in her designated precinct.

In Pasig City, mayoral candidate Vico Sotto deferred casting his vote until the VCM issue was fixed. The same went for incumbent Senator Nancy Binay in Makati.

There were also several reports from Filipino netizens about VCMs not working in some precincts so voters were instructed to cast their votes and leave their ballots.

The election polls officially closed at 6 p.m. on Monday. However, due to technical problems, Comelec’s transparency server had to stop sending unofficial results to media organizations, watchdogs, and political parties for seven hours.

Apparently, the application generating the results file based on election returns received by the transparency server stalled and stopped sending results.

The issue was escalated to the Comelec en banc after more than three hours of initial troubleshooting.

The election body’s server only resumed sending new results files around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, May 14.

Electoral fraud concerns

Votes are still being counted as of press time, and while the entire Philippines waits for the complete transmission of results, netizens are taking to social media their concerns over alleged cases of electoral fraud in various areas of the country.

For instance, one netizen pointed out a discrepancy in the counting of ballots, noting that his and his family’s votes for a senatorial candidate were unaccounted in the precinct’s tally.

Several netizens also claimed that the ballot receipts didn’t reflect how they voted. One post read: “I voted for Neri Colmenares but my Vote Receipt reflected/counted Glenn Chong! A few minutes after I made the protest, the machine went offline. Be vigilant, people.”

Another post claimed they “heard from friends that their voting receipts reflected BongGo and Bato Dela Rosa even though they didn’t tick for those names. This is in Bicol and I hope this gets resolved.”

Poll watchdog group KontraDaya criticized Comelec’s claim that the 2019 midterm elections was generally successful.

In a statement, the group said, “The assertion of Comelec Spokesperson Jimenez that there is no problem with the transparency server – since the data of election results comes in their servers – shows Comelec’s lack of commitment and responsibility to fulfill its mandate to the people.”

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