The minority bloc of the House of Representatives called on Wednesday, May 22, a return to manual voting and counting to ensure more transparency and accountability in future polls after various technical glitches bogged down the May 13 mid-term elections .
In a press briefing, Quezon 3rd district representative Danilo Suarez, and party-list representatives Jose Atienza Jr., Aniceto Bertiz III, and Alfredo Garbin Jr. stated that the automated election system was clearly flawed and a big disappointment.
“Reports revealed at least 961 vote-counting machines (VCMs) malfunctioned during the period of voting and at least 1,665 SD cards were corrupted. The SD cards needed to be reconfigured all the way in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, which serviced all of Region IV-A. The lines were impossibly long. Transmission of votes to the Commission on Elections transparency servers was also delayed,” Suarez said.
The lawmakers a manual counting of the votes witnessed by political parties would be more secure and less susceptible to corruption.
“We would like to move in the next Congress — strongly move — for a restoration of our old transparent system which is manual count witnessed by the nation. The Comelec and local technicians can improvise the fastest means of tabulating the results,” Atienza said.
The lawmakers further countered concerns that manual counting would be more time-consuming than the automated system.
“Sabi nila [computerization would be] efficient, transparent, mabilis ang count. Did you see that in this election? Ten days passed and we still did not know the winners. Merong seven-hour blackout that could have caused major changes in the people’s decision,” Atienza said.
In addition, the minority bloc said they received reports of inconsistencies and possible bribery to proclaim certain party-list groups as winners despite the lack of votes.
“The reason we were going to call for an investigation ay doon sa mga party-list. We have unconfirmed reports that there were several inconsistencies and even consideration of monetary payment,” Suarez said.
Garbin and Bertiz lamented that party-lists were printed on the back of the ballot though there were no instructions issued at voting registrars regarding this.
Garbin said the midterm elections saw 63 million registered voters but only 27 million — less than 50 percent of the total — cast their votes for party-list groups.
“Ito yung first time na ginawa yung party-list sa likod. Since 1987, when party-list was part of the electoral [system], palaging kasama sa national candidates. Ngayon lang nilagay sa likod. Kulang na kulang pa yung voter education [kasi] hindi nila alam,” Garbin said.
In addition, they were worried that the ink that bled through to the back of the ballots could have been mistakenly registered by the vote-counting machines (VCM) as a valid vote.
“Ang kinakakaba namin is dahil nasa likod at hindi naman made of at least 40 percent polycarbonate iyung papel, bumabakat sa likod. So ito pa ay isa rin sa katanungan namin na iyung shade sa senador sa harap na may katapat na party-list na nakakuha din ng napakataas na boto ay binibilang o mabibilang ng VCM,” Bertiz said.
The lawmakers also noted that some precincts with broken or malfunctioning VCMs resorted to setting ballots aside unguarded; reports of voting receipts reflected senators that the voter did not vote for; and massive delays that led to voters going home instead of casting their vote.
“Ito yung mga palpak at dapat kasama sa reporma… Hindi mo maiiwasan, mag-iisip ka kung ito ba ay credible na eleksyon? Ito ba ay honest at truthful result ng 2019 election?” Garbin said. — Czarina Engracia