Automated caution

Live from Maguindanao, Day 9
6 days before Halalan 2010

SHARIFF AGUAK, MAGUINDANAO–Sir Jorge’s crew left Koronadal long before dawn to drive with the convoy that carried the precinct count optical scan machines from Cotabato City to Maguindanao.

A police car, an army weapons carrier, three army jeeps, and three civilian vehicles surrounded the two cargo trucks that brought election equipment to the towns of Datu Salibo, Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, and Datu Unsay.

The PCOS machines, ballot boxes, and generators reached the municipal halls before noon, as many others are now reaching their assigned precincts all over the Philippines.

PCOS machines arrive at Datu Unsay, Maguindanao on May 4. Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News cameraman

A picture of jailed Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. looks at the arrival of PCOS machines in the town. (Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News cameraman)

In this hotspot province, security is still the top priority, hence the military escort. Hours after, an ABS-CBN Boto Patroller reported that a blast struck the town of Paglat, near another convoy carrying PCOS machines.

(Our producer Rochie Bernabe followed up the BMPM report on May 5 and found that the explosion was caused by an M203 grenade launcher.

It hit a field 100 meters from the barangay hall but long after any PCOS-carrying motorcade had passed. No one was hurt in what the army speculates is a scare tactic incident.)

The concern of the entire country today, however, is not just the possibility of election violence but more so, the possibility of election failure.

Citizen’s worst fears are slowly being unraveled in the speeding run-up to our first national automated election. A number of test polls yielded varying and doubtful results.

They blame it on wrong programming of the PCOS’s compact flash (CF) cards. Tens of thousands of cards await replacement before May 10.

The online community jokes that all sectors are ready for the election–except Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM. One mused, “Sorry, but I think the art of cramming can only be applied in school.”

Despite calls to postpone or delay the vote, the Commission plans to push through, ready or not.

Interestingly, CF cards are also the new way for us covering the election. In dozens of remote points, we’ve moved from taped video to digital video recorded through new cameras on these cards.

CF card used for digital video files

And we’re learning that the cards are no different from the cards used by the PCOS machines, only the programming.

We’re still adjusting to the new workflow, even if we were trained to teach the reporters and cameramen how to use them.

No country has ever shifted instantly from a manual to a purely automated count. The fact that we will be making the biggest electoral jump in history portends the possibility of a less-than-perfect vote.

But it doesn’t mean we have to shrink back. Take it from reelectionist senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago:

“There’s nothing more we can do. If the airplane is already plunging downward, you cannot change the trajectory by instilling fear in the cabin crew. You have to tell people, ‘It’s all right, we’ll land safely,’ and then you land safely in paradise–if you’re not very lucky that day.”

Much more reason to stay on guard this election.


3 comments on “Automated caution

  1. Pingback: August to August: A first year of firsts « PinoyJourn

  2. Pingback: Ground shots, top shots « PinoyJourn

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