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Vote-counting gear, ballots for 2016 polls arrive

28 March 2016

Some 95,000 official ballots and 10 vote-counting machines (VCMs) for the month-long voting by Hong Kong-based OFWs and Filipino residents in April-May general elections have been delivered to the Consulate.The ballots, packed in 95 cartons sealed in polyvinyl wrapping, were delivered by cargo company DHL at 2 pm on March 10, while the sealed VCMs and 65 resealable plastic ballot bins and their matching plastic mounts were delivered on March 1.   The Commission on Elections did not inform the Consulate in advance about both deliveries, according to consular officers, who said it was DHL that called them about theconsignments. They said the Comelec also did not ship a spare machine.Philippine media based in Hong Kong were invited to witness the delivery of the election paraphernalia.The Consulate had asked for 11 machines so that one would be on stand-by just in case any of the 10 breaks down on voting day, but Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, who oversees the overseas electoral process in Hong Kong, said Comelec cited “budget constraints” fornot shipping a spare machine.“I immediately emailed Atty Vanessa (Comelec Deputy Commission Vanessa Roncal) and called her at ang sagot niya sa akin ay yung budget constraints,” said Vallespin. “Ang sabi niya, even Jeddah, which had eight SBEIs, got only six VCMS.”The paraphernalia are part of some 97,000 VCMs that the Comelec has ordered from Smartmatic, a global provider of ballot scanning machines manufactured in Taiwan.The Comelec said the VCM has a secured source code that makes sure the votes are interpreted correctly; has an ultraviolet lamp that determines whether a ballot is genuine or fake; has the digital signatures of the SBEI who will certify the poll returns. The machine has a built-in voter verification paper audit trail, which serves as a receipt ofa person’s vote, according to reports of Comelec’s description of the vote scanner that replaced its unpopular predecessor, the precinct count optical scan (PCOS). “We did not expect the delivery of the ballots today (March 10), just like what the Comelec did with the VCMs. We were only informed by DHL, which called up this morning,” said Jethro Tull dela Cruz of the cultural section.The ballots, VCMs and ballot bins are now locked inside a spare room in the cultural section. Consul-General instructed her staff to transfer the machines and bins to that roomfrom the conference room to free the latter for meetings.
Vallespin said the machines would be installed in the Bayanihan Center in Kennedy Townon April 5 where they will be kept under guard. The Consulate’s lease on the venue begins on April 4 and lasts until May 16, he said. On April 5, the three-day training of members of the special board of election inspectors (SBEI) and special ballot reception and custody group (SBRCG).Once installed in the 10 voting precincts where the 30 members of the 10 SBEIs will be stationed, final testing of the machines will be held in the presence of the Philippine media in Hong Kong, Vallespin said. “Final testing and sealing will be on April 8, at 9:30am at the Bayanihan Center. We’ll again invite all of you from the media,” he said. Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim will be in Hong Kong to switch on the machines and cast his vote here.

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