Philippine computerized polls 'likely to fail'

Senate hopeful Joel de Venecia says country's automated election system heading for failure after vote-scanning machines continue to fail during tests.
Written by Joel D. Pinaroc, Contributor

The Philippine government's computerized polling system will fail miserably come election day on May 10, warns a candidate running for a seat on the Philippine Senate.

"I will not say that the May 10 elections will be rigged, but I will say that automated system is likely to fail," Joey de Venecia III said in a statement Tuesday.

In particular, the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines which, de Venecia said, had failed in several tests. The PCOS machines are one of the most critical components of the automated polls.

U.S. software performance testing vendor, Systest Lab, earlier reported numerous shortfalls in the automated electoral system, which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) later responded to say these have been fixed.

However, the Comelec on Monday ordered a recall of all memory cards in the PCOS machines in Metro Manila. Critics say this confirms earlier suspicions that the automated system is not ready to be used, with barely days left leading to the May 10 elections.

"[This] is the last straw," said de Venecia, who noted that over 7,500 memory cards in Metro Manila and surrounding cities were recalled after numerous cases of failed PCOS machines continued to emerge during tests.

"Those replacement flash cards may already contain data such as votes for pro-administration candidates. They may also be pre-programmed not to read specific names of candidates," he said.

De Venecia is a businessman who rose to prominence after unveiling what he claims were irregularities in the scandal-ridden deal between the Philippine government and China's ZTE over a multimillion-dollar broadband project. The senatorial candidate owns a local technology company that failed to bag the deal.

De Venecia said he will continue to call for the computerized polls initiative to be scrapped and to urge the Comelec to revert back to manual vote-counting.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a Filipino freelance IT writer currently based in Saudi Arabia.

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