SLIDE SHOW | Final Testing and Sealing of PCOS 'successful' - Comelec
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE3:58PM) If the final testing and sealing (FTS) of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines at a Pasay City school were to be the gauge of accuracy for the May 13 elections, then fears of fraud or technical foul-ups are unfounded, Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes Jr., said on Thursday.

"Overall, it [the Final Testing and Sealing, or FTS process] is more than okay. And that is a positive signal that we are going to the coming [exercise] prepared for a successful 2013 (national and local) elections,” Brillantes said.

As early as 9:00 a.m., Thursday, Brillantes together with newly-installed Commissioner Luie Guia and other local Comelec officials, went to Gotamco Elementary School, along F.B, Harrison in Pasay City for the FTS of the voting machines.

The first district of Pasay City is one of the congressional areas in the whole country that started testing the accuracy of the voting machines since the package arrived as scheduled.

Under the General Instructions (GIs) to the Board of the Elections Inspectors (BEIs), the deputized teachers are mandated to check the contents of the kit to ensure that the voters’ list, election forms, marking pens, indelible ink, 10 sample ballots and other election paraphernalia are there during the inventory.

After the inventory as certified by all members of the BEIs and watchers of political parties, citizens’ arms and other organizations accredited by the Comelec present, the testing started with a “mock elections” on 10 sample ballots provided in the kit.

After “voting,” shaded ballots were inserted in the PCOS machine; then, the BEI prints the Election Return; and manually count the “votes.” 

Brillantes declared after the FTS: “Walang discrepancies, lahat ng balot tinanggap ng PCOS machines, walang bumalik, walang nangyari [There were no discrepancies, all the ballots were accepted by the PCOS machines, no ballots were spat out by the machines]; even the audit log and election return were accurate against the manual count.”

Under the manual for BEIs, all the BEIs members are directed to be at the polling place at exactly 6:00 a.m. on Election Day so they have ample time to prepare for the voting process which will start at exactly 7:00 a.m., and finish at 7:00 p.m. the same day.

Wrong PIN encoding

Despite Brillantes’s declaration there was no noteworthy incident, noticed in Cluster Group 3 (Precinct Nos. 009A, 0010A, 0011A, 00011B, and 00011C) of Barangay 2 Pasay City, headed by BEI chairman Shirley Abendan, that a member failed to encode her PIN (personal identification number) in the PCOS machine for initialization.

"Hindi nya napindot nang tama ang PIN nya [she wasn't able to type in her PIN properly]," Abendan said of the BEI member. To make the initialization faster, Abendan encoded her own PIN on the PCOS, which started the process.

No other machine glitches or minor discrepancies were observed during the testing.

"If we see more or less the same smooth process happening everywhere on Election Day, then we won’t have a problem,” the poll chief said.

Warning against over-vote

Meanwhile, some ballots were intentionally shaded to exceed the required number of candidates in a position, like the party-list system where only one candidate should be voted upon. 

As expected, the machine did not count the so-called over-vote ballots, as Comelec had warned earlier.

"When you shade more than the number of candidates required like for the party-list system, when you shade two candidates, it will not be counted by the PCOS machine. That is correct,” the poll chief said.

The over-voting is one of the oft-repeated warnings by Comelec in its advisory to voters issued in video form last Wednesday. Voters are told to make sure they don’t vote, for example, for more than 12 candidates for senator, and more than one candidate for party-list. Otherwise, the entire ballot won’t be counted by the machine.

Here are some scenes from the exercise: