Solons seek probe on VCM glitches, high number of replaced units

Malacañang on Tuesday, May 14, backed the call of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for a probe on glitches experienced by hundreds of vote counting machines (VCMs) during the recent mid-term elections.

Smartmatic VP for global services Elie Moreno

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said a probe may be necessary since the malfunctioning VCMs have been widely criticized.

“Anything that will be for the betterment of this country, we always support,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing. “Since there is a lot of complaining about Smartmatic, let’s have the probe then by the Senate or by the House of Representatives.”

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III earlier said he wants to stop the use of VCMs supplied by Venezuela-based Smartmatic. Apart from the mid-term elections, the machines were also used in the past three automated polls.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said she wants the Comelec to explain the high number of VCMs that were replaced.

“I am extremely alarmed and disappointed over reports that some 400 to 600 vote-counting machines (VCMs) were replaced in this year’s midterm elections. This is said to be three times more than those replaced in 2016. This resulted in the disenfranchisement of a still undertermined number of voters and the severe inconvenience of many citizens in different parts of the country.

She added: “This is our fourth automated elections. Mishaps like this, especially those that deprive our people of the right to suffrage, are unacceptable.”

The Comelec earlier admitted that VCM issues tripled in this year’s polls. However, the agency that this is still “within range.”

Panelo said Malacanang is also open to a review of Smartmatic’s contract with the Comelec.

But, Smartmatic VP for global services Elie Moreno earlier said the Comelec had complete control of the VCMs as it has chosen to exercise its option to purchase the machines used in the 2016 elections.

Moreno said Smartmatic deployed minimal personnel during the elections since its only responsibility for the polls was the transmission of the results. The supply of defective SD cards was also outsourced to a separate bidder.

Panel nonetheless described the conduct of elections as “successful” except for the malfunctioning of VCMs. “If the machine does not function, you have a remedy for that. All you have to do is make a manual counting of the ballots,” he said.

He also said it was natural for the VMCs to experience glitches but emphasized the importance of testing before the conduct of elections.

Panelo cited the Comelec for the speedy release of partial and unofficial results within a few hours after voting closed. “It’s only now that we have seen the results within hours,” he said.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to allow the Comelec to explain the reason behind the malfunctioning VCMs.

“If there is any malfunction there or aberration at all in the procedure or process in the conduct of elections, let Comelec first explain to the people before we initiate a sort of investigation,” Duterte said in a chance interview after he cast his vote at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Davao City. — with report from Azer Parrocha (PNA)

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