Sen. Kiko to Comelec: What happened in 7-hour glitch?

AFTER the Liberal Party’s (LP) twin manifestations during the canvassing of the 2019 election votes, party president Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday questioned the COMELEC on the transmission delay that caused a 7-hour results blackout on May 13.

The Senate convened a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) to discuss the output of the Technical Working Group on the Automated Election System, as well as to discuss the final report of the Local Source Code Reviewers and the conduct of the 2019 elections.

“I asked so many experts on IT and they have a thousand different interpretations of what could have happened. Just earlier, they were saying perhaps there was a bug. We don’t know. Or nabilaukan. We don’t know. Is there an effort to find the root cause of this glitch?” asked Sen. Pangilinan.

The Liberal Party filed motions dated May 16 and May 21 asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain the 7-hour glitch, defective VCMs (vote-counting machines), and corrupted SD (secured digital drive) cards, among others.

“We had two manifestations, on May 16 and May 21, as the canvassing was ongoing. We have not received any response from you. So may we have the courtesy of being responded to?” Pangilinan said.

“I know you’re busy, and in fact it’s part of our manifestation, but let’s respond to these manifestations. We do not want to get this feeling that the opposition is being ignored,” he said.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body will prepare a response and a report.

Malfunctioning VCMs

The opposition Senator also raised concerns about the malfunctioning VCMs.

“Why was it not tested to the maximum? Up to what level was it tested, because we don’t want something like this to happen again. And therefore obviously, the testing was not effectively or properly undertaken? Because if you tested it properly, then this 7-hour glitch should not have happened,” Pangilinan said.

Technical Evaluation Committee Chairman Peter Banzon mentioned logistical challenges in testing the VCMs.

“We couldn’t find a place where we could install all the VCMs, basically. The only time all of them would be online would be on election day,” Banzon said.

“Come 2022, another glitch could happen because you won’t have the opportunity to put all the 90,000 in place? So what’s the point of testing if we’re not sure the test will in fact be an assurance that it would work?” Pangilinan said.

During the same hearing, Comelec revealed that 1,051 voting machines malfunctioned during election day, with 2,246 SD cards that were found defective, particularly in regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4A (Southern Luzon), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and the National Capital Region.

Corrupted SD cards

The Comelec, however, stressed that some of the corrupted 2,246 SD cards have been replaced. With the exact figures not yet available from the poll body, the senators computed as much as 2.2 million votes might have been affected.

“When you have to wait five hours for the replacement, will you still vote? These are the realities on the ground. So if you are talking 2.2 or 3 million voters who had to wait for five hours for the SD card, will they still vote? We don’t know. Baka umuwi nalang at sinabing, ‘Ayaw na naming bumoto,’” Pangilinan said.

“So this has to be avoided. Because this is a disenfranchisement in that sense of a number of voters and affects the overall results. And therefore it has to be checked. It has to be looked into. And how must this be avoided in the future,” he said.

Apart from being party president, Pangilinan also served as campaign manager of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate, a coalition of LP, Akbayan, Magdalo, Aksyon Demokratiko, and various civil society organizations.