These musings are more of questions and observations based on experiences.
After having voted, I went to visit several centers that monitor the elections. CBCP World has a monitoring center set up at the top floor of the CBCP office in Intramuros. It is manned by many religious men and women. The PPCRV has theirs in Pope Pius XII Center while NAMFREL has it in La Salle Greenhills. All these centers have lines of computers and phones set up and they are receiving updates from their people in the ground. The common comment that I hear is that of long lines of people in the voting centers and of people not finding their names because of the clustering of their precincts. At the rate things were moving at mid afternoon, many would not be able to vote as people are getting fed up waiting and in many places the voting process is so slow. In one school in Novaliches for example 300 service numbers were distributed in the morning but by 3 pm only 80 have cast their votes! Not that few voted, but the process was so slow! I also heard of several places in the country where elections were not conducted for a variety of reasons, like the ballots were switched between a town in Iloilo and another town in Eastern Samar. Two towns in Lanao did not have the elections because no BEI personnel could be found since the teachers there are relatives of the local candidates. Some towns are so far inland that the PCOS machines cannot get to their places. There were also many reports of breakdowns of PCOS machines. I wonder where the extra 6000 PCOS machines meant to replace malfunctioning ones are kept. It is said that they are kept in reserve in hub centers. Where are these hub centers and who and how can they be accessed? There seems to be a lack in information and there is no point person to ask.
Another question came. I observed that when I voted in the morning my ballot was not scanned. Each precinct is supposed to have an ultra-violet scanner to scan each ballot to know whether it is an authentic ballot or not. This was a solution made when the automatic scanners in the PCOS machines were decommissioned because of miscalculations in the printing of the ballots. The COMELEC spent millions to acquire these scanners and there was even a controversy over this. I asked others who voted. Their ballots too were not scanned. To verify further, I went to a public school in Makati and observe the last hour of voting there. In all the precincts there were no ultra-violet scanners. We spent millions acquiring them and they are not used!
Another observation. Many of our public schools have 3 or 4 stories with no elevators at all. There were complains coming from the elderly that they could not make it up the stairs! Perhaps considerations should be made for the elderly and the handicapped so that they need not go up the flights of stairs in order to exercise their right to vote.
Finally, we are now in the counting and canvassing stage. I write this around 10 pm. Most of the precincts have finished the voting. There are problems in sending the results to the central servers. One problem is that there are not enough modems. In one school in Tondo with 27 PCOS machines there are only 3 modems! To compound this situation is the fact that it is not easy to transmit the results. Probably the system is overloaded at the central servers. I wonder up to when will the BEIs, the PPCRV volunteers and the watchers wait till all the results will be transmitted. Ah… there is so much to improve! Yes we need to learn from experience, but could not the painful learning experiences have been lessened if more planning and foresight had been done by the COMELEC?
Bishop Broderick Pabillo
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila