Just a week before the May 9 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Negros Oriental announced Monday that the final testing and sealing of vote-counting machines (VCMs) will be held at centralized venues instead of the polling precincts due to security concerns.
Lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec-Negros Oriental provincial election supervisor-designate, told the Philippine News Agency the decision was made upon the recommendations of the municipal and city election officers.
Originally, the final testing of the VCMs, set on May 5, would have been held at the individual polling precincts where these automated machines are assigned to ensure their operability and to give enough time for trouble-shooting in the event some problems will arise, Castillano said.
“However, in a recent meeting, the election officers expressed apprehension over the security of the VCMs at the voting centers, especially in remote villages, considering that these would be stored for a few days before the elections,” he said.
Castillano said some of the security concerns cited were the presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army, as well as intense political rivalry.
A list obtained by the Philippine News Agency from the Comelec showed that Canlaon City, Vallehermoso, Ayungon, Bindoy, Manjuyod, Pamplona, Sibulan, Valencia, Sta. Catalina, Bayawan City, and Basay have identified public gymnasiums as their centralized venues for testing.
Guihulngan City, Tayasan, and Dauin, will hold the final testing and sealing at their respective covered courts, while La Libertad, Jimalalud, Tanjay City, San Jose, Bacong, Zamboanguita, and Siaton have chosen public schools for the same activity.
The final testing and sealing for Bais City will be at its amphitheater; Mabinay, the municipal evacuation center; and Amlan, at the town’s Plaza Square.
The provincial capital, Dumaguete, is the only local government unit where all of the VCMs will be tested at the respective voting centers.
The final testing and sealing of these VCMs will be witnessed by political candidates or their legal counsels/representatives, as well as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the National Movement for Free Elections which are accredited citizens’ arms of the poll body, Castillano said.
He reassured that police and military personnel will be deployed to the venues to ensure the security of the VCMs as well as the teachers and Comelec staff involved in the testing.
The province received last month 1,471 VCMs equivalent to the number of clustered precincts where the polling will take place next week.
Once the VCMs are tested and sealed, they will be kept at a storage area designated by the election officers and will be deployed hours ahead of the opening of polls at 6 a.m. on May 9, together with the official ballots and other election paraphernalia, Castillano said.
Source: Philippines News Agency