By URIEL C. QUILINGUING, Contributing editor
with CONG B. CORRALES, Associate editor .
GLITCHES in the voter registration verification machines (VRVM), aggravated by insufficient knowledge in information technology and lack of voters’ education, were common causes of delay.
Voting did not start at 6 am in many voting centers, contrary to what the Commission on Elections had wanted.
These observations were shared by local representatives of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Communication Link for Emergency Assistance Network (Clean), Amateur Land Emergency Response Team (Alert), and the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) in yesterday’s midday news conference at the Namfrel command center at Xavier University.
Many voters were dismayed by the long lines and the slow voting process in yesterday’s elections even as they blamed these on the clustering of precincts that was exacerbated by the piloting of the Voter Registration Verification System.
In Barangay Consolacion, for instance, it did not help that the list of registered voters and their precincts were posted only in the early hours yesterday unlike in the 2016 elections when it was posted a full day before the voting.
One voter, Clifford Huerbana, opted to go home but promised to come back in the afternoon after standing in line for almost four hours.
Another voter, Roberto Pedimonte, complained of what he called an unnecessary addition before the actual voting.
“Samok kaayo nga ipag biometric pa kita nga mulantaw ra man diay gihapon sa master list nila. Nagdugang-dugang lang sa kahasol,” he said.
The VRVS is an Android application set in a tablet device that would authenticate registered voters before they are allowed to vote via a biometric slot for the finger.
“Bantog ra nga hinay kaayo molihok ang linya kay ika pila pa ibutang ang tudlo sa tablet nila arun mabasa,” Pedimonte said.
City elections officer Ramil Acol told Gold Star Daily that the VRVS has been designed to deter flying voters.
This new system was used in pilot areas across the country yesterday. In Mindanao, it was used in Zamboanga del Sur, including Zamboanga City; Misamis Oriental, including Cagayan de Oro City; Davao del Sur, including Davao City; and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
PPCRV media coordinator Nathalie Igot, who cast her vote in Talisayan town, said she observed the board of electors had to allow a registrant to vote even if the VRVM rejected his fingerprint.
“There was an instance when a voter was asked to try both thumb marks, then other fingers, because the machine does not validate he is a legitimate voter,” Igot said.
But since the name of the voter is in official list of voters, much more because the BOE members know him personally, he was allowed to vote.
She said there were instances when voter-counting machine (VCM), which underwent earlier testing and sealed, malfunctioned when a BOE member started operating it.
“There was one who found it difficult to feed the used official ballot into it, despite several attempts,” the PPCRV spokesperson said.
So what the BOE members did was to record the technical problem in their minutes.
Agot said that when it was her turn to vote, feeding of the ballot and “transmission was successful” but, when she got her receipt, the paper inside the VCM jammed, thus causing delays for those next in line.
“They have to call their IT (information technology) expert for assistance now and then,” she added.
She said what she witnessed were also observed by other PPCRV volunteers in the province, as well as in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog.
But Clean-10 representative Marlon Libot said there were also instances when voting only took about 20 minutes, as in his case, since it’s already an automated election system.
Libot said malfunctioning of VCMs and VRVMs were reported in the municipalities of Balingoan, Magsaysay, Medina, and Talisayan as well as in Gingoog City, as of 11 am yesterday.
“In these areas, he said, many BOE members resorted to manual verification of voters because themselves do not know which fingers were used by the voters,” the Clean volunteer, who was for so many elections been exposed to manual voting system.
He said there were times when VCMs had to be restarted after these were already turned on all because the BOE members did not know the steps of operating it.
Libot said Clean volunteers were in places not covered by Namfrel and these include voting centers in barangays Agusan, Baikingon, Bayabas, Mambuaya, Pagatpat, Tablon in Cagayan de Oro, including Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School, and Sta. Cruz, Tagoloan.
Namfrel Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental Chapter chairperson Nestor Banuag Jr. admitted that their warm bodies were not enough although they have been closely monitoring the entire province, including its component cities and Cagayan de Oro.
“In Cagayan de Oro, our volunteers are in 35 out of 60 schools that are also voting centers,” Banuag said.
He said that before the elections, there were assurances BOE members and IT in-charge in schools have already been trained.
“But based on monitoring reports of Namfrel volunteers, including that of Alert and Clean amateur radio groups, the BOE and ITs in schools are in “taranta (panic) mode,” Banuag said.
He said Namfrel volunteers, all-card-bearing and in uniform, found it difficult in some areas to enter because there were too many watchers sent by candidates who did not know where they were supposed to stay.
In many voting centers, the situation was chaotic since there were no clear directional signs for voters; often, the help desks were situated away from the school map.
Alert operations chief Jerson Ebal said they also received similar complaints of malfunctioning VCMs and VRVMs which delayed the voting process even if the voting centers opened at 6 am.
Cocpo spokesperson Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa said police personnel accompanied the Commission on Elections representatives and witnessed the members of the BOE in the final testing and sealing of the equipment.
“We helped in the deployment of these machines and official ballots May 9 and secured them until these were pulled out from safekeeping early yesterday,” Hortillosa said.