The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday announced that there would be no extension of voting hours for the May 9 national and local elections.
At a press briefing, Commissioner George Garcia said the Comelec en banc has decided that the voting period will be only until 7 p.m.
“Yung extension po ng voting at this point ay negative. Hanggang ngayong oras na ito [Up to this moment], the en banc has decided hanggang 7 p.m. ang botohan [voting will only be until 7 p.m.]. Nothing will justify extension of the voting at this point,” Garcia said.
He, however, said that voters within 30 meters of the polling places by 7 p.m. would still be allowed to vote.
“We can extend the voting hours up to the time we accommodate everyone within that vicinity [of the] voting center,” Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan added.
Garcia, meanwhile, assured that the poll body was in full control despite the reported number of defective vote counting machines (VCMs).
According to Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, around 817 vote VCMs were reportedly defective as of Sunday night during the final testing and sealing. However, these were all repaired in time for the May 9 polls.
“Sa ngayon the declared as defective VCMs is only 143 and since sabi ko kanina we have 1,900 contingency VCMs ay mabilis ang replacement, hindi na hihintayin ni electoral board na mairepair bago nila ito gamitin,” Casquejo said.
(So far the declared defective VCMs is only 143 and since I said earlier we have 1,900 contingency VCMs, the replacement is fast, the electoral board will not wait for it to be repaired before they use it.)
For the SD cards, Casquejo said there were 124 defective SD cards that needed replacement.
“Generally, mabilis po yung pagconduct n gating replacement and also replacement of SD cards hindi po tayo magkakaproblema. Rest assured yung mga narereport sa media, there are isolated cases na hindi makaka-affect sa integrity ng ating elections,” he added.
(Generally, the conduct of our replacement and also the replacement of SD cards is fast, we won't have any problems. Rest assured those reported in the media, there are isolated cases that will not affect the integrity of our elections.)
‘Long lines, breakdown of VCMs’
Earlier in the day, poll watchdog Kontra Daya called on the Comelec to extend the voting hours due to several issues faced by voters on Election Day.
In a statement posted on its Twitter page, Kontra Daya called on the Comelec “to consider extending 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. Extending voting hours can help prevent disenfranchisement,” the poll watchdog said.
Long lines and issues with VCMs marred the first few hours of voting on Election Day.
But 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.
[While our technicians are fixing the VCMs, the ballots should not be with the voters.]
“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.”
[And if the machines will be fixed, only then will he ballots be fed in front of the watchers and observers inside the precinct.]
Garcia said the VCMs that can't be fixed by the technicians will be replaced.
A tweet by GMA News’ Tina Panganiban-Perez, citing Garcia, said more than 1,800 VCMs have malfunctioned, broken down into:
- Paper jam - 940
- Rejected ballots - 606
- VCM scanner - 158
- VCM printer not printing - 87
- Not printing properly - 76
- Garcia said all these issues were resolved.
Candidates urged to help LGUs, MMDA help clean areas
For his part, Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay urged candidates to help local government units (LGUs) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to clean areas after Election Day.
“Ang hinihiling ko na lang po kung talagang lingkod bayan mula pangulo hanggang konsehal ay pagkatapos ng araw na ito tulungan LGU, MMDA, natin na magligpit lahat ng kalat na nakikita natin,” Bulay said.
(Those public servants from president to councilor, after today please help LGU, MMDA, let's get rid of the garbage in the polling areas.)
“Kung nalimutan man natin yan na magpasa ng batas o commission resolution ay maghahabol po kami at mayroon kaming continuing forum,” he added.
(If we forget to pass a law or commission resolution, we will sue and we have a continuing forum.)
Continuous voting in Mindanao areas
Garcia said that they are communicating with the regional director in BARMM amid the alleged report of violence in an area in Lanao del Sur where an electoral board member was injured during the violent incident.
“Yung ating regional director ng area sa BARMM on top of situation, pinapasubmit na namin siya ng report agad sa ating operation center, allegedly na may nasaksak na member electoral board yun pinapaverify pa isang polling place lang but then asap na maireport kung bakit nagkaganoon ng klaseng problema,” he said.
(Our regional director of the BARMM area on top of the situation, we are sending him a report immediately to our operations center, allegedly that the member electoral board was stabbed, they are still verifying only one polling place but then ASAP to report why this incident happened.)
He said there is continuous voting in the area after the particular incident.
“Kahit sa Marawi City, was placed under Comelec control pero kita niyo naman kung gaano kadami yung bumoto despite the fact that under Comelec control ibig sabihin hindi natatakot yung mga kababayan natin na amgexpress ng kanilang sarili sa pamamgitan ng balota despite the fact of what is happening in their area,” he said.
(Even in Marawi City, it was placed under Comelec control but you can see how many people voted despite the fact that under Comelec control means that our countrymen are not afraid to express themselves through the ballot despite the fact of what is happening in their area.)
“We would like to commend our voters for what they are doing, they are showing the entire world that we are not afraid of this irregularities,”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier said at least 24 towns and four cities have been placed under the Commission on Elections’ control due to security concerns.
Meanwhile, Garcia advised security guards to allow voters to enter polling areas even if they have a paper with their list of candidates.
“Pagpumapasok po yung mga botanteng may dalang papel ‘wag niyo po tatangghinan, mayroon po kasing ilang security guards pinagtatabuyan dahil sinasabi po walang dalang sample ballots,” he said.
(When the voters come in with a paper of list candidates, don't prevent them from entering, there are many security guards who did not allow them to enter because they said they should not bring any papers.)
“Kahit anong dala ng botante na papel whether sinulat or sample ballot na naiabot sa kanya dapat pinapapasok ang lahat ng botante natin, so may natitira pa tayong oras papapasukin po ang botante natin kahit anong dala nilang kodigo, karapatan po nila yon,” he added.
(Whatever paper the voter brings, whether written or a sample ballot that was handed to them, all our voters must be allowed to enter, so we still have time to let our voters in no matter what they bring.)
There were also reported violent incidents that marred the conduct of elections earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, a blast erupted at a voting center in the municipality of Kabacan, Cotabato around 9:40 a.m. on Election Day. No casualties were reported in the incident.
On the eve of elections, a Negros Occidental teacher assigned as support staff to an electoral board was gunned down in Himamaylan City on Sunday evening, said the Philippine National Police's Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6).
PRO public information officer chief Police Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Solis added on Monday that the shooting occurred around 8:30 p.m. when victim Mercy Miguel and her husband were on their way home to Barangay Caradio-an. — RSJ/VBL, GMA News