Defective vote-counting machines mar midterm polls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Thousands of voters and a number of candidates have encountered defective vote-counting machines in their polling precincts, with some bets refusing to vote until the problem is fixed.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said there were issues with some 400 to 600 VCMs, based on its monitoring. The poll body said the machines have been replaced.

The ballot of former Vice President Jejomar "Jojo" Binay was rejected eight times. The candidate of 1st District Rep. of Makati City was enraged after the vote-counting machine (VCM) rejected his ballot due to a paper jam. He quickly headed to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to petition the incident.

"Sobra ang galit ko. Ako pa ang ginanon. Sa akin pa nangyari," he said in a media briefing.

COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez admitted that they machine deployed was faulty.

"We determined that the problem was actually with the VCM. The VCM was rejecting ballot. The ballots that were preserved were later on refed to into the new machine," he told CNN Philippines.

After the machine was replaced, it again rejected Binay's ballot. He was allowed to fill up a new ballot. The principal of the precinct said this was a special case.

Binay's daughter, Makati mayoralty candidate Abby Binay, had to wait for an hour before she was able to vote after the VCM in her polling precinct at San Jose Elementary School malfunctioned.

Meanwhile, Pasig mayoralty bet Vico Sotto refused to cast his vote until the "defective" VCM is replaced. He explained why he refused to leave his filled ballot for later feeding in the VCM.

"By law it's allowed, but of course it may have problems later on sa pagpapasok ng balota. Kailangan talaga bantayan natin to make sure na una, mapasok talaga ang mga balota na naiwan doon. Pangalawa, para din hindi masingitan ng ibang balota, unused ballot na hindi na-shade," he told CNN Philippines.

He added he has received reports of 35 machines in the city that are not working.

Sen. Grace Poe arrived at her polling place in Greenhills, but she was told to leave because they are still repairing the machine.

The issue has also affected several voting precincts, creating long lines in polling centers. In a precinct in Guadalupe Elementary School in Cebu City, the VCM has not been working properly since the polls opened at 6 am. The precinct supervisor said a back-up machine is already on its way.

Meanwhile, a VCM in Gov. P.F. Espiritu Elementary School in Bacoor City, Cavite shut down due to overheating, forcing teacher volunteers to resort to more tedious manual voting. There are also reports of malfunctioning VCMs in Barangka Elementary School in Marikina.

COMELEC prepared

COMELEC said it will look into what went wrong once voting for the midterm elections ends at 6 p.m.

"The main point right now is that we're able to provide new machines so the old ones are replaced as quickly as possible. Two hours is not your definition of quick but the voting hours will accommodate this delay," Jimenez said.

The poll body said there are about 10,000 vote-counting machines that were set aside in case of technical problems.

"We know for sure that machines will fail, that's why we have back up capacity," he said.

COMELEC admitted the sheer number of reports on faulty vote-counting machines may cast doubt on the results of the elections that is seen as a referendum on the performance of President Rodrigo Duterte over his three years in office.

"We've seen our share of problems and COMELEC is thankful we have also been able to resolve. But the number of reports we've received, this has an impact on public perception," Jimenez said.