Long lines and issues with vote-counting machines (VCM) marred the first few hours of voting on Monday, Election Day.
Except in some areas, polls opened at exactly 6 a.m. and will continue until 7 p.m.
People wearing masks began queuing before dawn to cast their votes outside primary schools and other venues used as polling stations across the vast archipelago.
"Blockbuster. The long lines are magnificent. Filipinos wanted to be heard and heard loudly," said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia in a message to reporters.
Comelec acting spokesperson Atty. John Rex Laudiangco, for his part, said the long lines signify that many Filipinos want to exercise their right of suffrage.
"Ito po ay nakakatuwa kasi kitang-kita natin 'yung kagustuhan nila na gawin 'yung kanilang obligasyon at i-exercise 'yung kanilang right for suffrage,” he said in a press conference.
Turnout is expected to be high among the more than 65 million Filipinos eligible to vote in elections.
Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan visited the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School in Pasay City past 6 a.m. to check on the conduct of voting.
"Everything went smoothly. So far, mga six voters casted their votes already. Walang hazard," Pangarungan told reporters.
"The voting now is in progress dito sa voting center na yan," he added.
Pangarungan said he was also informed that the nationwide voting has started on time.
The elections are being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters are required to undergo temperature check before they are allowed inside the voting precincts.
But due to the large crowd, this was hardly observed in some areas. In Camarin D Elementary School in Caloocan City, for example, not all voters were able to undergo temperature check, according to GMA News' Cedric Castillo on Twitter.
A large crowd was also seen at the entrance of Pres. Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City, the biggest polling place in the National Capital Region with 39,000 registered voters, according to Maki Pulido's report.
At Fort Bonifacio Elementary School in Makati City, tempers flared after voters found out that printouts indicating their designated precincts have not been posted when the polls opened, according to a separate report by Chino Gaston.
Authorities were able to post the printouts some 15 minutes later after the polls opened, the report added.
A power outage, meanwhile, hit Valenzuela City's Gen. T. De Leon Elementary School, according to Raffy Tima's report. VCMs, however, continued to function as they were powered by batteries but the outage became an inconvenience to the voters, especially to the senior citizens.
It was not clear if the power outage also affected other polling places in Valenzuela City.
In Misamis Oriental, meanwhile, the start of voting was delayed due to problem with the VCM, according to a report by Cyril Chavez of One Mindanao.
In Manila, two malfunctioning VCMs were also reported, according to Vonne Aquino. Affected voters were given two options: They can leave their ballots with the electoral board or return later in the day when the problem with the VCMs is addressed.
In Parañaque City, six VCMs malfunctioned, according to Jomer Apresto's report on Super Radyo dzBB. This resulted in long lines of voters waiting for their turn to vote.
The issue on malfunctioning VCMs prompted election watchdog Kontra Daya to call on the Comelec to extend the voting hours beyond 7 p.m.
"The breakdown of VCMs and the long lines, among other issues, have affected the turnaround time in voting," the group said on Twitter.
"Extending voting hours can help prevent disenfranchisement."
In an interview with GMA News, Garcia said there are technicians assigned to fix problematic VCMs.
"Habang kinukumpuni ng ating technician yun pong vote-counting machine na nasira ay dapat po ang lahat ng balota ay kunin sa botante," he said.
"At kapag natapos na ang pag-aayos ng VCM ay saka na siya (balota) ifi-feed sa harapan ng lahat ng watcher at lahat ng observers na nandun sa loob ng presinto."
Garcia said VCMs that can't be fixed by the technicians will be replaced.
No 'major issues'
More than 60,000 security forces have been deployed to protect ballots and election workers.
Laudiangco said the Comelec has not received any "major issues" from the ground.
"Ngayon po, wala kaming natatanggap na major issues and that’s a good indication na maganda ang ating voting na nagaganap," he said.
Laudiangco said the issue on VCMs that were not tested and sealed as of Monday morning has already been addressed.=
Laudiangco also reported that two towns in Maguindanao accidentally swapped ballots, while there was an on-and-off power supply in Bukidnon.
The poll executive said that the Department of Energy will work on power supply issues and the Comelec has backup plans set in place such as providing batteries and generators in case needed. —with Giselle Ombay and Agence France-Presse/KBK/KG, GMA News