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Unaccounted Voter Registration Verification Machines opened nine months after elections

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio February 21,2020 - 07:12 PM

Personnel from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Office in Mandaur City load the VCMs and VRVMs to the vehicles that would carry the equipment to their respective voting centers. (CDN DIGITAL PHOTO/Rosalie O. Abatayo)

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Unaccounted Voter Registration Verification Machines (VRVM) from Barangays Mabolo, Capitol Site, and Apas, have been opened nine months after the May 13, 2019 elections.

Lawyer Marchel Sarno, the Cebu City North District election officer, said it took time to account for the VRVMs because they were accidentally placed inside the ballot boxes of at least five clustered precincts.

The VRVMs needed to be returned to the local election office, in this case, the Cebu City North District Commission on Election (Comelec) office, then turned over to the national Comelec.

The VRVMs contain data of at least 500 voters, and these data are protected by the Data Privacy Act. This is the reason the Comelec needed to retrieve the machines.

“The VRVM contains information of the voters that is protected by Data Privacy. We need to retrieve them for accountability,” said Sarno in a phone interview.

The VRVMs were pilot tested as a digital form of verification during the May 2019 elections, but they were considered inefficient by the local Comelec as 90 percent of the machines broke down during the election day.

Read more: Comelec: Broken machines should not disrupt election; VRVM fails

The verification of voters returned to manual before lunchtime of May 13 as most machines have malfunctioned. Yet even if the machines malfunctioned, all VCMs were turned over to the national Comelec.

The machines that malfunctioned in the five precincts of Mabolo, Capitol Site, and Apas, were placed inside the ballot boxes of the precincts after the counting of the votes, which was not supposed to be the protocol.

Because ballot boxes needed to be opened, the Comelec took time to retrieve the VRVMs as they sought the authority of the national office.

Sarno assured that the ballots were already accounted for in the last elections and that they were not tampered with.

He also said that candidates in last year’s elections were asked to witness the opening of the ballot boxes to retrieve the VRVM. /dbs

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