By Mario Casayuran
Pro-administration Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Thursday called on the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JOCAES) to look into the series of glitches that marred the 2019 midterm elections.
“We want to preserve the integrity and credibility of our automated elections,” Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate economic and energy committees, said.
Gatchlian stressed that there is a need to look into the issues encountered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the recently-concluded mid-term elections to avoid repeating them in succeeding elections.
A number of hiccups occurred in a number of areas on election day that caused delays in voting.
“Una, ang daming VCMs (vote counting machines) at SD (secure digital) cards na sira. Tapos nagkaroon ng issue sa transparency server sa transmission ng boto sa media partners because of buggy software. Marami ring kaso ng mga sirang VRVM (voters registration verification machine), especially sa Maguindanao at Cotabato City,” he said. (First, there were many VCM cards that failed. Then there is the issue of the transparency server failing to send tallied votess to media partners because of buggy software. There are also cases of defective VRVMs.)
Gatchalian was referring to the malfunctioning VCMs that delayed voting in a number of areas, including Pasig, Makati, San Juan, and parts of Cavite.
A total of 961 VCMs, or 1.1 percent out of 85,769, malfunctioned in 2019, compared to 801 during the 2016 elections.
The lawmaker from Valenzuela also expressed concern about the number of defective SD cards, which jumped from just 120 in 2016 to 1,665 this year.
Moreover, reports showed that a total of 776 or 72 percent of VRVMs in Maguindanao and Cotabato City failed to work, resulting in voters having to go through manual verification on election day.
“All these issues call into question the integrity of the elections. Worse, baka may mga voters pa na nadisenfranchise,” Gatchalian said. (Worse, there could have been voters who were disenfranchised.)
The Comelec also experienced problems with its transparency server, which caused a seven-hour delay in the posting of unofficial tallies.
To further complicate the server issue, Gatchalian noted that several news outlets monitoring election results noticed a sudden drop in transmitted results from the Comelec early Tuesday. From 93 percent of the total votes received at 5:20 a.m., the number plunged to 49 percent just 30 minutes later.
Gatchalian lamented the Commission’s failure to prevent what he described as “avoidable problems” despite its hefty P10.178-billion budget.
“Ang laki na ng budget ng Comelec pero ang dami pa ring naging issues. We can’t blame the public if they are wary of cheating because the multiple glitches did nothing to allay their fears,” he said. (There were many issues surrounding the mid-term elections despite the big budget Congress gave to Comelec.)
Meanwhile, Gatchalian commended the teachers who served as members of the board of election inspectors (BEIs), thanking them for their patience despite the glitches and the sweltering heat.
“Ang ating teachers ang mga bayani ng bawat eleksyon. Kaya nga sana ay hindi na mabawasan ng withholding tax ang honoraria nila,” he said. (Teachers are our heroes everytime elections are held. We ask that their honoraria should not be subjected to withholding taxes.