A newly discovered glitch has cast more doubt on the reliability of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, prompting a senator to call on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ditch the counting machines.
The defect discovered by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) could either give votes to a candidate or render a ballot invalid due to over voting.
The glitch was uncovered during the random manual audit (RMA) done by a technical evaluation committee of the DOST. The team found that several PCOS machines were found generating “black markings” on the ballots.
Engineer Dennis Villorente reported the glitch to the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and Peoples Participation chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.
Pimentel called the hearing to discuss various issues regarding the 2013 midterm elections.
Villorente said that of the 212 machines that were randomly tested, 11 made the so-called black markings on the ballots. Seven PCOS machines made the black markings right inside the ovals located next to the name of a candidate. Voters shade the oval to indicate their choice.
On the other hand, four of the machines were found generating black lines outside the ovals meaning it doesn’t have any effect on the ballot.
Pimentel expressed concern over the latest PCOS anomaly. The machines were bought by the Comelec for P1.8 billion from Smartmatic.
The senator said that the recent discovery should prompt the Comelec to study if it would still use the PCOS machines in the 2016 presidential election.
“We will be electing our president and vice president in 2016 and there’s a possibility for us to have an accidental winner because of the defective PCOS machines,” Pimentel told reporters.
The recent discovery, he added, strengthened his belief that the country should get rid of the Smartmatic PCOS machines and look for a more reliable technology.
Maria Corazon Akol of the automated election system (AES) Watch admitted that the latest PCOS machine anomaly is new to them.
She added that although there is no indication yet that the new glitch would have a major effect on the ballot reading, it raises the need for more transparency on the part of the Comelec.
Former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman had criticized the poll body for its decision to remove several safeguards intended to protect the PCOS machines and other important equipment from possible manipulation thus making the system vulnerable.
Akol said the Comelec should junk the PCOS machines because there is no assurance that the machines could really count the votes cast by the electorate.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes pledged to look into the report of the DOST and determine if there are other machines that possess similar glitches.
He added that if the glitch was caused by damaged parts, the Comelec can just replace it but if there is a bug inside the machines, then the poll body would have no option but to junk them.