Polls generally peaceful, turnout hits 70 percent

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By Johanna m. Sampan, Catherine S. Valente and Madelaine B. Miraflor Reporters and Anthony Vargas Correspondent

DESPITE reports of malfunctioning machines, missing ballots and pockets of violence in some areas, the police and military described the Monday’s elections as generally peaceful.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) also gave its thumbs up to the conduct of the polls, saying complaints of PCOS machines bogging are not enough basis to declare a failure of election.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. put the voter turnout at 70 percent, matching their expectations.

There were 52,014,648 registered voters for yesterday’s electoral exercise.

“The opening hours of balloting in the country’s 77,829 polling precincts was relatively peaceful and could very well describe the orderly outcome of election day until the close of polling hours,” Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima said.

He added that the PNP will remain vigilant in the face of some shooting reports, mostly between opposing political supporters.

“But these were not enough to dampen the spirit of the electorate to exercise the right to elect our government leaders. Our present operational readiness and vigilance will be maintained until the election process is completed,” Purisima said.

He added that the police will remain vigilant during the counting of votes.

“We will not let our guard down, experience tell us that it is not yet over, we appeal to candidates to remain calm and accept the result of the elections,” the PNP chief said.

The police closely monitored 15 areas of concern for violent incidents perpetrated by leftist rebels and private armed groups (PAGs).

As of noon yesterday, the Comelec said the second nationwide automated polls was generally “okay”.

Brillantes dismissed as “minor” reports of defective Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

“Our report says there were some glitches but generally, the elections appear to be okay.

Our elections is running smoothly,” he told reporters at the Comelec Command Center at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

Brillantes said only 200 PCOS machines malfunctioned, compared to 400 in the 2010 elections.

“There are certain reports which have been blown out of proportion by media. There are actually glitches but most of them are small,” he said.

He clarified that the disenfranchised votes in Compostela Valley in Mindanao and Baguio City in Luzon will not affect the final results of the polls, ruling out the need for special elections.

He confirmed there were misdelivery of ballots involving two precincts in Compostela Valley and Baguio.

He said the commission is not willing to spend at least P5 million for special elections in these areas where the total number of votes would not dent the poll results.

“If there is no special elections, effectively, they will be disenfranchised but only because their votes will no longer matter,” he explained.

Brillantes said the poll body will also not declare any failure of election by reason of violence, intimidation or power outages.

Canvassing delayed
The Comelec suspended the canvassing of national votes on Monday night.

The seven-member National Board of Canvassers said they will come out with the official
results this morning.

“We don’t expect much of the transmission until the next few hours so we decided to adjourn until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. By that time a substantial party of electronic results shall have been received by the system,” Brillantes explained.

He gave assurances that there will be no room for tampering as critics feared because the board will continuously accept transmitted results.

“It cannot be [tampered]since our process says that from the PCOS machines, it goes directly to the servers,” Brillantes said.

The board convened late yesterday and commenced with the initialization of the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS).

However, it was immediately adjourned because there were no Provincial Certificates of Canvass (PCOCs) to process.

Based on Comelec procedures, the PCOS machines, upon close of voting, will automatically transmit the precinct results to the Municipal Board of Canvassers, Central Server of the Comelec and to the transparent servers, such as the dominant majority party, dominant minority party, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

Brillantes said the canvassed results come in later than the unofficial counts since it will have to go through the “ladderized system” of canvassing as prescribed by the Omnibus Election Code.

“It will still have to go through the Municipal (or City) Board of Canvassers (MBoC), then to the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBoC), then to the NBoC . . . so it really takes time,” he said.

Power outages
While several areas experienced power interruptions on Monday, the power supply in the country was normal, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

Irma Exconde, DOE Assistant Director on Electric Power Industry Management Bureau,
admitted that there were outages in Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Olongapo City, and Taguig City in Luzon, Lapu-Lapu City and Iloilo City in Visayas and Zamboanga and Iligan in Mindanao.

As of 6:30 p.m. yesterday, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) reported that the power supply in some areas in Mindanao has not been restored.

“Remaining areas with power interruptions are in Lanao del Norte and Sultan Kudarat,” NGCP spokesman Cynthia Ala­banza said.

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) said four polling precincts in Dasmarinas, Cavite had no electricity yesterday from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco spokesman, attributed the power failure to external factors and not a glitch in the power supply.

Exconde stressed that most of the power interruptions were due to generation deficiencies.

“Power remains at normal levels. It is not a supply problem. It is not supply related,” she told reporters.

She said that as of 6 p.m. yesterday, all grids were running normally.

Peaceful
Metro Manila was generally peaceful on Monday despite the intense political rivalries in some cities, a senior police official said.

National Capital Regional Police Office (Ncrpo) chief Leonar­do Espina said polling activities opened smoothly.

“There are few minor incidents, but elections in Metro Manila are generally peaceful,” Espina told reporters in Camp Crame.

The incidents monitored by the police were mostly administrative in nature such as missing voters list and bogging down of PCOS machines.

Espina said the Mandaluyong City police office arrested 12 “flying voters” at the Ilaya Barangka Elementary School after village watchmen of Barangay Barangka Ilaya sought police assistance.

Aquino votes in Tarlac
President Benigno Aquino 3rd voted in his hometown in Tarlac without any problem because poll officials at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Elementary School fixed the technical glitch on the PCOS machine before he arrived.

A paper jam caused the PCOS machine to stop working three hours before President Aquino cast his vote.

Mr. Aquino was accompanied by his sisters Ballsy Cruz and Pinky Abellada who also voted in the same precinct.

He said he was quite impressed at the speed of the automated voting process, admitting that it was his first time to use a PCOS machine.

In 2010, Aquino was unable to vote even if he waited for hours for the PCOS machine to be fixed.

The President also expressed satisfaction over the security preparations for the elections.

“I was in contact with the Director General of PNP to go through the security preparations again and make sure that we have done everything possible to make sure that our elections are peaceful,” he said.

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