VCM malfunctions plague Palo polls

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PALO, Leyte, May 9, 2016 – Most reports received by the Palo Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) archdiocesan command center pertained to vote-counting machines (VCMs) out of whack with one precinct resuming only at around 5:00 p.m. because of delays.

According to Madonna Songalia, PPCRV operations officer in the Archdiocese of Palo, the VCM in a precinct covering Brgy. Cayare in San Miguel, Leyte rejected a ballot seven times and finally stopped working.

Located about 40 kilometers northwest and around an hour‘s drive from Tacloban City, San Miguel is generally a peaceful town although it was placed on the Comelec watch list due to cases of election-related violence in 2013.

Functional at 5pm

The precinct covering Brgy. Cayare is where the parish of the PPCRV archdiocesan head Fr. Elmo Manching falls under. The priest, who was unavailable for comment, was one of those who stayed until about 6:00 pm to cast his vote.

Songalia said there were voters who refused to shade the official ballots while no VCM was operational.

“They did not want to leave their shaded ballots with the Board of Election Inspectors,” Songalia said.

The VCM started functioning only at around 5:00 p.m. as most precincts were closing.

Far from being peculiar to the said precinct, other areas in Palo had to wrestle with VCM-related issues like rejection of ballots throughout the day.

Technical teams summoned by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) said some units just needed “cooling down.”

PPCRV volunteers deployed in the five districts of Leyte, including Tacloban City, did not report any untoward incident or violation of the Election Law.

BEI, VCM evaluation

According to Pinky Joyce Nirja, a member of the local PPCRV core group, the command center is expecting the transmission of election returns tonight until tomorrow morning.

“We are now expecting that the election returns from specific clustered precincts will be arriving here at the Chancery, so we can start with our parallel counting in the archdiocesan level but we will only be doing the provincial and national counting,” Nirja said.

A parallel count for positions from the mayor down will be handled by the parish-based PPCRV, she explained.

Nirja said the archdiocesan PPCRV on May 11 will be going over the incident reports submitted by poll-watchers to identify incidents common to areas.

The archdiocesan PPCRV, which had also been tapped by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) as its watchdog arm in this election, will likewise conduct a random evaluation of BEI and VCM performance in selected clustered precincts. (Eileen N. Ballesteros / CBCP News)

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