(UPDATE) Voting for the May 9 elections has started, and reports of malfunctioning vote counting machines or VCMs have started to come in, leaving voters frustrated and cautious to ensure that their ballots are protected.
Some netizens who went to their polling places early to cast their votes reported that they were being asked to leave their ballots after the VCM in their precinct malfunctioned. These ballots will then be fed to the machine later in the day, they added.
At least 51 vote counting machines were found defective and 102 SD cards are up for replacement as of 11 a.m. on Monday, Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said.
ALSO READ: Here's How the May 9, 2022 Elections Will Go
The Comelec prepared a contingency procedure in cases of malfunctioning VCMs and other issues, including giving the voter an option to leave their ballots for feeding after the VCM issue has been resolved.
"Kapag may VCM malfunction at hindi magamit pansamantala, pwede kang maghintay na maayos ang problema, o pwede mo iwan ang balota mo sa electoral board, para sila ang mag ba-batch feed ng mga balota pag gumagana na ang makina," Comelec director James Jimenez said.
According to Comelec Resolution 10759, which sets the contingency procedures for election-related issues, the electoral board assigned in the polling precinct will first determine the cause of the malfunction.
If the VCM issue cannot be resolved after one hour of continuous failure, a recommendation will be made to deploy a contingency VCM to replace the malfunctioning machine.
While the malfunctioning VCM is being fixed or a contingency machine is being processed, the electoral board will announce to voters in line that they can "proceed in casting their votes by shading their ballots with waiver of their right to be issued a voter's receipt."
In this case, the ballots will be temporarily placed inside the Envelope for Rejected Ballots, Half or Torn Unused Official Ballots and Other Half of Torn Unused Official Ballots, and Counted Official Ballots before being batch-fed by the electoral board before the polls close.
Voters may also wait for the VCM malfunction to be resolved or the replacement machine to arrive so they can cast their votes and personally feed the ballot in the machine.
All contingency measures and procedures that will be undertaken by the electoral boards will be made in the presence of watchers, one for each registered political party, coalition and independent candidate, and will be noted in the minutes.
"Kung ayos ang VCM, ang voter ang dapat mag-feed. Walang kailangang waiver," Garcia said.
Voting for the May 9 elections will last until 7 p.m., but voters within 30 meters of their polling precincts will still be allowed to vote even beyond the closing of the polls.