Melo: We’re 100 percent on target
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—It’s all systems go, contrary to fears of skeptics.
“We are 100 percent on target,” declared Chair Jose Melo of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in an interview with reporters barely three weeks before the first nationwide automated elections on May 10.
He said that the Comelec was within its schedule for the deliveries of ballots, the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines, ballot boxes and other materials within this week.
“We are on target on the printing, we are ahead of schedule. The customization of the PCOS machines is going along well,” Melo said.
Ray Roxas Chua, chair of the Comelec Advisory Council and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, also expressed confidence that preparations were “on track to be able to conduct a successful automation.”
“We’re pretty confident that it will work,” he said in a recent interview with the Inquirer.
Chua shrugged off fears that the automated election system was prone to modifications that could undermine results. He said that there were safeguards in the ballots, machines and in the other processes.
“If someone tries to change the results, it will show. It’s going to be difficult to alter the results,” he said.
The fear of a massive failure of elections is exaggerated, Chua said, saying the scenario is “almost impossible.”
The Comelec has leased 82,200 PCOS machines from Smartmatic-TIM Corp. that will read and scan the machine-readable ballots. About 76,300 of them will be deployed to each precinct, while the rest will be on stand by to replace those malfunctioning.
Machines being shipped out
Melo noted that freight forwarders started on Monday to ship voting machines to various regional warehouses in Mindanao. The process would be completed May 6—four days before the balloting.
The ballot boxes will also be at the precincts seven to three days before the elections for the testing and sealing of the PCOS machines to be conducted by the board of election inspectors and observed by election watchers.
The printing of the 50.7 million ballots for the May 10 elections will be completed by Thursday evening or Saturday, two days before the Comelec’s self-imposed deadline of April 25.
The verification of the ballots, which entails each ballots to be scanned by a voting machine, is expected to end a day or two after. All the ballots will be sent directly to the municipal treasurers to ensure swift delivery.
The preparations for the canvassing system have also started, Melo said.
On Tuesday, Melo, Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Sen. Francis Escudero, chairs of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated elections, each entered a six- to eight-character password into the software for the centralized canvassing system.
The password will lock the system, disabling modifications and changes in it, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal explained.
Thus, fears that the 1,772 laptops that will be used in the canvassing can be used to tamper the results are baseless, officials said.
The Comelec, Larrazabal said, is also preparing to decommission the five printers leased from Smartmatic-TIM once the printing of the ballots has been completed.
Melo will seal the machines and delete the files containing the ballot formats, Larrazabal said. “These procedures are to ensure that no files will be leaked,” he said.
“We are doing this so they won’t say that we are printing extra ballots,” Melo added.
Also Tuesday, Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr., backed the call of former Comelec Chair Christian Monsod for critics to stop heckling the poll body on its capability to manage the balloting.
Icban described as “unfounded” speculation about election failure. He pointed out that a recent survey showed that 80 percent of the people believe the automated polls was much better and easier to do than manual elections. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño