ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Philippines: Faulty machines spawn doubts over smooth elections
Philippine vote-counting machines malfunctioned in tests being conducted before next week’s general elections, fueling speculation a new president may not be chosen, reported the Bloomberg News.
“We are on top of the situation; we have teams evaluating extent of the problems,” Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said in a phone interview yesterday.
Some machines in Makati, Manila’s financial district, recorded votes for one candidate in favor of another, Eric Alvia, secretary general of National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, or Namfrel, said over the phone. Volunteers reported computer problems in other parts of Manila as well as Batangas province south of the capital.
“This is the first day of testing all those machines; we may encounter more problems” in succeeding days, Alvia said. “The machines were not tested properly” before they were delivered to 76,340 voting precincts, he said.
The nation is holding its first computerized elections to reduce cheating that occurred during weeks-long manual counts. Namfrel and other groups say delayed delivery and inadequate testing of the machines raise the risk they will fail or produce erroneous results, weakening the winner’s mandate or leaving the country with an interim president.
Senator Benigno Aquino, the leading contender, last week said his supporters would take to the streets if “the people’s will is frustrated.”
“It’s ironic that poll automation, which is supposed to secure the sanctity of the ballot is now the very threat to the process,” Margaux Salcedo, spokesman of former President Joseph Estrada, who is seeking the presidency anew, said in a mobile phone text message. “It strengthens speculations about a possible underlying motive, to rig the polls.”
Some machines in four Manila municipalities didn’t report votes as marked on test ballots, Henrietta de Villa, chairwoman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said in a phone interview.
“There may be credibility to the claim of some quarters that there will be a no election, or no proclamation” of a winner,” Gilbert Remulla, Nacionalista Party spokesman and senatorial candidate, said in a phone interview.
The reports are “disturbing,” said Raymundo Roquero, secretary general of the ruling Lakas-Kampi party. “The pattern is very dangerous.”