By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) demands overtime pay for public school teachers who served beyond duty hours on May 9, election day.
The group said many teachers who served as members of the electoral board had to stay in the precincts until the next day, May 10, which is more than 24 hours since they began their duty, due to severe delays in resolving issues regarding the vote counting machines (VCMs).
Based on reports gathered, teachers in many schools in Manila and Quezon City had to wait for replacements of the corrupted SD cards for their VCM or are still feeding ballots into the machine after waiting all night for their machines to begin working again.
The board of election’s duty is only until 7:00 p.m. on election day, according to Basilio.
“Around 64% of reports we received had something to do with machine errors and irregularities. It has resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters and the grave overworking of our teachers, among others. Many of our electoral boards started rendering services at 4:00 a.m. on May 9, and too many of them are still in their precincts guarding VCMs and hundreds of ballots that are yet to be fed into the machine,” Basilio said.
Based on reports they gathered through its monitoring hotlines, VCMs broke down as soon as they opened them at 6:00 a.m. on May 9, this despite running smoothly during the final testing and sealing (FTS) held last week.
“Up until voting hours ended, the group continued to receive reports of machines still not working. Reports further indicate that despite requests for immediate assistance from Comelec (Commission on Elections), many of them had to wait for hours to finally receive technical assistance,” Basilio said.
With the glitches experienced during election day, Basilio said teachers had to once again shoulder the brunt of the government’s failure.
Months before election day, ACT demanded that the Comelec provide overtime pay for those serving as members of the electoral board, citing previous elections where teachers were obliged to stay in their precincts for up to two or three days after election day.
However, the group said Comelec rejected their call saying that the agency’s “finance policies prohibit the Commission from providing overtime pay to EB (election board) members as they are not regular employees of Comelec.”
Failure of automated election system
Meanwhile, election watchdog Kontra Daya said that a significant number of the election incidents they received is related to machine failures.
The group said they received 577 reports of machine failures from Luzon to Mindanao, “accounting for 42 percent of total reported incidents. Machines have been seen rejecting ballots, failing to issue receipts or breaking down entirely, resulting in long lines and significant delays in voting.”
The group also received 152 reports of illegal campaigning, 109 reports of vote buying and 66 reports of red-tagging.
“This proves that despite statements by Comelec to the contrary, the 2022 elections continue to be plagued with incidents of fraud and disinformation,” the group said.
Out of the 4,000 reports they received throughout the country, the group through its volunteers, were able to verify at least 1,370.
The group maintains that “the massive amount of reports received this year only serves to prove the failure of the automated election system in guarding the sanctity of the ballot.”
The group said the reports of machine errors and breakdowns can be attributed by a failure of the Comelec, its election system contractor Smartmatic, and its logistics provider F2 Logistics to ensure timely, thorough, and transparent testing of voting machines.
The group said they hold Comelec, Smartmatic and F2 Logistics accountable for the widespread failure of the election equipment. They also call for an investigation to ensure that those responsible will be held accountable.
“It is difficult for voters to be confident in election proceedings marred by machine errors and breakdowns, as these cast doubt on the capacity of the machine to count their votes. This can be attested by reports of voters refusing to hand over their ballots to election officials, choosing instead to wait for replacement voting machines until the early hours of the morning to be sure that their votes are cast. There have also been multiple reports of gaps in election procedures, such as incorrect manner of storage of ballots and receipts,” the group said in a statement.
They added, “The proprietary source code of the VCMs and the lack of a genuine source code review process cast more doubt on the accuracy of the election results. As the software and hardware of the machines are both owned and protected by Smartmatic, it is difficult to completely vet the process by which the machines count the votes.”
Kontra Daya said that the Comelec must replace the current automated election system with one that is transparent, open source and locally made.
“An election system that maximizes local talent and allows for greater public scrutiny will allow voters to be confident that their vote has been correctly cast and counted,” the group said. (RTS, RVO)