Philippines to go ahead with e-voting

Presidential elections will proceed next week as scheduled after voting machine defects threatened to disrupt the Philippines' first automated vote.

A Filipino worker in a warehouse in Quezon City, east of Manila, loads Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) vote-counting machines into a truck to be delivered to respective precincts around Metro Manila on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.
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MANILA, PHILIPPINES // Presidential elections will proceed next week as scheduled and a voting machine supplier has promised to correct defects that had sparked fears of chaotic failure in the Philippines' first automated vote, officials said today. Yesterday, the Commission on Elections ordered the recall of 76,000 memory cards to be used in optical counting machines after some malfunctioned in tests. The problem sparked rumours that Monday's vote may be postponed. "There is no truth to that," the elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told a news conference. "We have not voted on any postponement. "Despite the problems, we hope that we can set aside the finger-pointing, the bickering and the text brigades that only fan unfounded rumours." The glitches were discovered just six days before 50 million Filipino voters elect a new president, vice president and officials to fill nearly 18,000 national and local. Smartmatic, a consortium that won the bidding to supply the counting machines, has assured the commission that it can fix the problem, test the new memory cards and deliver the machines all over the archipelago in time for Monday's vote, Mr Larrazabal said. Private corporations have promised to lend more than a dozen helicopters, and air force helicopters will be on standby to help, he added. Cesar Flores, Asia-Pacific regional head of Smartmatic, said the problem was traced to "human error" and was not an act of sabotage. He said Smartmatic officials are committed to work for fast and clean polls and promised they would not flee the country amid the troubles. "If you want my passport, you can hold it in escrow," Mr Flores said. The memory cards, which contain instructions for the machines, did not properly read blank spaces in the ballots for local candidates because of an error in its configuration, Mr Flores said yesterday. Henrietta de Villa, of the church-backed election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said the recalls had hurt confidence in the automated voting system, but noted that the defects had been detected and authorities were providing assurances that the problems would be solved. An influential business group, the Makati Business Club, renewed calls for the election commission to implement a manual count of votes for at least five top posts, including president, vice president, House members, governors and mayors. The commission last week rejected the proposal. * AP