Congress sets June 4 probe of poll glitches

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has set a June 4 hearing on the widespread technical problems that marred voting during the May 13 elections.

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said the date was set upon the request of his counterpart in the House of Representative.

He said the Comelec should reexamine the diagnostic tests they use to clear vote counting machines since some 600 of these broke down on election day.

“This is already our fourth automated elections. Haven’t we learned yet?” he asked.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said about 400 to 600 out of the 85,000 VCMs in several precincts nationwide encountered glitches, about four times as much as those that encountered problems in the 2016 elections.

Comelec officials blamed the glitches on the poor quality of SD cards provided by their supplier, which offered the lowest bid.

Senator Panfilo Lacson supported an immediate inquiry and said he wanted to ask the Comelec about the transmission problems related to their transparency server, which delayed the unofficial tally by about seven hours.

He also said he would quiz the Comelec on the procurement of low-quality SD cards.

Amid the strong showing of pro-administration candidates, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he would do everything to maintain the Senate’s independence.

Another opposition member, Senator Risa Hontiveros, urged the public to stop “vote-shaming” others by calling them stupid, simply because they did not see eye to eye on their candidates.

“Let’s not call our fellow voters stupid. There’s a reason they voted the way they did,” she said in Filipino.

She said the challenge is for us to determine their reason for choosing these candidates.

“We must humbly listen, understand and respond to the reasons behind their choices,” she said.

Although the opposition Otso Diretso was shut out of the winner’s circle in the Senate races, Hontiveros said she was proud about campaigning for them.

She said the remaining opposition senators would continue to strive for an independent Senate, which she said is the last line of defense against continuing attempts to undermine democracy.

“The anti-democratic forces may have further entrenched themselves in power, but we will continue to push back. This is certainly not the endgame. We are used to difficult fights. We are prepared to fight the long game,” she said.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said she would agree to any investigations to be conducted by a third party to erase doubts about the elections caused by VCM breakdowns.

“We are willing to have a third party that would audit logs that contain [the] votes,” Guanzon said.

“I want to assure the public that we are open to inquiries or technical audit. I and Commissioner Guia prefer an independent third party to do this,” she added.

The Comelec official assured the public that there was no cheating during the elections, saying the technical glitches on several hundreds of VCMs did not affect the election results.

She also said a snag in the transmission of unofficial results was fixed immediately—though there was a seven-hour delay.

Earlier, Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said packet data issues caused the delay in the viewing of the running vote count shared by the media and other accredited organizations.

The glitch, Guia said was due to a java error, but said there was nothing wrong there.

Guanzon, meanwhile, said the Comelec would not pay for the 1,665 defective SD cards that were blamed for glitches in the VCMs.

The poll watchdog National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections on Wednesday said the Comelec should immediately transmit all the remaining 2.25 percent election returns that have not been transmitted yet, saying the remaining number could greatly affect the senatorial race from numbers 10 to 14.

In a statement, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said the remaining numbers are critical in the senatorial contest where the figures among those in Numbers 10 to 14 positions are very close.

“The 2.25 percent is equivalent to 1,930 untransmitted local election returns and assuming a 75 percent turnout of voters in the May 13 elections, this means 1,043,721 votes should still be coming in,” the group said.

“This number is large enough to reorder the positions in the senatorial race, and most importantly, define without doubt the No. 12 or the last slot placer. The margin of votes between the current 10th to the 14th placer now stands at 398,000 well within the 1,043,721 unaccounted votes,” the PPCRV added.

The Comelec said canvassing of votes could be finished within the week and Senate winners could be proclaimed by Monday, May 20.

Guanzon said that at least 96 percent of the election returns have been transmitted for canvassing and expected to conclude the transmission by Friday, May 17.

“I think we can proclaim Monday because we have to wait for everything,” she said.

The Comelec en banc will decide if they would do a partial proclamation this week, she added.

According to the latest update of poll results on the Comelec website, 97.82 percent of election returns nationwide been received by the poll body.

Meanwhile, the manual counting and tallying of votes in selected clustered precincts nationwide kicked off on Wednesday during the random manual audit in Manila.

The objective of the audit is to check the accuracy of the vote count, said Ona Caritos, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections.

Guia said the committee will be processing at least 60 of the total 715 clustered precincts initially picked for the audit.

Winning candidates in nine out of 11 towns, a city, and even provincial and congressional winners in Bataan were still not officially known on Tuesday after 36 SD cards proved defective in 10 areas.

Gilda Rodrigo, assistant provincial election supervisor, said only the towns of Bagac and Hermosa have finished transmitting the results and had the votes counted by the municipal and provincial board of canvassers. With PNA

READ: Many machines malfunction

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Topics: Aquilino Pimentel III , May 13 elections , House of Representative , James Jimenez
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