The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has, for the third time, postponed the printing of ballots for the May 2016 elections by another week because of incompatibility problems in the two computer programs supplied by election provider Smartmatic Corp.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Monday said the printing of ballots has been moved from February 8 to early next week.
He gave assurances that the delay in printing will have “no material impact on the schedule of the elections.”
Bautista dismissed speculation about “manipulation” ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on the disqualification cases against leading presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe soon after Tuesday’s “If there was really manipulation that’s going to happen, then they could have just kept quiet and all would have been fine and dandy but the fact that there is a finding… again to us is good because they’re doing their job, we still have enough time to make changes to the system,” the Comelec chief said.
“We wanted to ensure that the source code is in accordance with international best practices and no malicious stuff [is]included therein,” he added.
Bautista said the delay in printing will give them time to redesign the ballot or make it shorter.
“Shorter ballots mean faster printing and faster election process,” he explained.
Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said Smartmatic promised to “cure” the glitches.
It was discovered that the code for the Election Management System (EMS) was incompatible with the Consolidated Canvassing System (CCS).
The EMS designs the configuration for the vote counting machines, like precinct number and the number of voters per precinct, among others.
Lim said if the EMS is not compatible with the CCS, there will be transmission problems during he elections because the latter will not be able to recognize what is being sent by the EMS.
“The EMS is designed to have a network while the CCS was not designed [to have one]. But the way it came out for the CCS, it was designed for a network which should not be the case,” the commissioner said.
“For us, rather than hide it from everybody, we wanted to redo [it]so that everybody is well informed that this is what we’re doing,” he added.
Lim earlier said the problem, if not immediately solved, would result in election delays in some areas, but he later added that the “elections would push through” given Smartmatic’s assurance that the problem will be resolved.
The Comelec has signed a P35-million contract with SLI Global Solutions for testing and review of the source code submitted by Smartmatic.
As certifier, SLI will make sure that the source code meets the specifications and performance and adheres to deliver what the Comelec needs.
“For further checking that the codes in the machines are the same ones certified by SLI, once SLI submitted the final trusted build we will create a hash code. The moment certain lines are changed, the hash code also changes. The hash code will appear in election returns, in documents printed out by machines so that watchers or the public can compare if the code is the same,” Lim said.
The Partido Manggagawa (PM) also on Monday said the delay in the printing of ballots shows that the Comelec is not prepared for the May 9 political exercise.
“It looks like the Comelec is ill-prepared to handle some important aspects of the elections, including [the]finaliz[ation of]the list of candidates and the timely printing of ballots,” Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesman, told The Manila Times.
The group expressed fears that the printing delay would pave the way for an act or plan that could lead to the victory of Liberal Party (LP) candidates headed by Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
“I hope this glitch in preparations is not part of any wild plan [of the Aquino Administration],” Fortaleza said.