DAVAO CITY–The country’s first automated elections has left most voters feeling angry and disappointed seven hours after the opening of the polling places here.
Carmen Gultiano, a voter in one of the precinct clusters at the Daniel Aguinaldo National High School, came out of her precinct tired, agitated and unable to hide her frustrations after spending six hours just to vote. Gultiano arrived at her precinct at eight o’clock in the morning and was only able to vote at two thirty in the afternoon.
“I’m worried about those who might not be able to vote because the voting will close at seven,” she said. Casting the vote takes only a few minutes but the process of verifying and scrutinizing the documents takes very long, said Guiltiano, the 203rd to cast her vote in a precinct cluster of close to a thousand voters.
At the Palma Gil Elementary School, Sitti Sarna Haliki Jakariya spent a long time trying to find her name in her precinct cluster.
Each precinct cluster is made up of six precincts, with each precinct having an average of a hundred to 200 voters. The average number of voters for each cluster easily runs to close to a thousand voters. Gultiano said quite a number of voters in her precinct went home without being able to vote, discouraged by the snail-pace of the voting. “Some of them still needed to work,” she said.
In Santa Cruz town in Davao del Sur, an hour away from Davao City, foreign observers described as “troubling” the conduct of elections in a depressed village of Zone 1.
Lawyer Radhika Sainath, the spokesperson of the nine members of the People’s International Observers’ Mission observing the elections in Southern Mindanao, said the process was “very disorganized,” the PCOS machine, “very problematic” and the balloting “did not appear to be done in secret.”
Sainath and the rest of the delegates made the observation in Patulangon Elementary School in barangay Zone One of Santa Cruz town, about an hour’s ride from Davao City. The school accommodated three clustered precincts with 4,385 voters. But of the 654 votes cast as of 1:30 pm, 20 ballots were rejected, said Wendell Gumban, a PIOM delegate from Manila.
Sainath said one of the PCOS machine also broke down for 45 minutes before it started working out again, which forced people to wait in a very long line. “The whole place was overcrowded and there was jostling and pushing, it was very hard for people to keep their ballots in secret.”
In one instance, she saw 10 people crowding a small classroom, everyone can easily see who they are voting for, she said. Gumban said people appeared not to be disturbed at all and appeared to be helping each other choose their candidates but this was not supposed to be how it should be.
Sainath said some people were made to wait for several hours before they were allowed to vote. She also cited a high number of invalid votes because of some problems with the machine.
She said the voting started on time at seven o’clock in the morning but the voting went on very slowly, that most of the voters have to wait for hours before they can finally vote. “There was plenty of jostling and shoving around,” said Sainath.
The international delegates also learned that soldiers in six-by-six military vans were roaming around the previous night, dropping flyers that warned people not to vote for the progressive partylists. “Huwag iboto ang partylist ng NPA (Don’t vote for the partylists of the NPA),”the flyers said, naming the partylist groups Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Akap Bata and Katribu.
Gumban said they’ve been aware that in the previous elections soldiers have been known to campaign against progressive organizations in the area. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)