Comelec may postpone polls in some areas as ballot printing delayed anew

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A possible postponement of the May 9 elections in some parts of the country could happen, according to Comelec Senior Commissioner Comelec Christian Robert Lim, after the poll body discovered that it needs to rebuild the source code for the election management system.

The election management system, regarded as the spine of the system that runs the automated polls, is not yet ready.

"Kasi ang problema, nakatali lahat yan," Lim explained." "Let’s say magkaroon pa kami ng mga problema, and let's say May 7 na nagco-configure pa kami ng machine. Eh kung hindi umabot sa area (yung machines by May 9), so hindi ka magkakaroon ng eleksyon."

Also read: What the source code review is and why it is important to the 2016 elections

Comelec was supposed to begin printing ballots Monday (February 8), but it is now postponed as the ballot faces are determined by the election management system.

Tight timeline

It takes 81 days to print all 57 million ballots for the elections.

If workers begin printing today, the process would have ended on April 28. According to Lim, they may instead begin printing on February 15.

Look: Vote counting machines stored in Laguna warehouse

If the plan pushes through, the poll body is expected to finish the process on May 5 or just four days before election day.

Lim admits their timeline is now very tight and he is concerned that some materials needed for the polls may not be ready by then.

"Medyo masikip talaga yung timelines namin ngayon. Kasi when we discussed last week to conduct the ‘retrusted build’ for today, we were looking at February 10 to start the printing as well as to start the reconfiguration of the machines already," Lim said.

"I heard that there was an announcement that the printing will start on February 15. So my question is when can we really load the data. Kasi matagal eh. We need a three day lead time for that."

Source code issue

The automated polls have three components: the election management system, canvassing and consolidation system, and vote counting machines.

Each component has its own source code.

The Comelec built a final source code for the election management system two weeks ago — but that's the one they have to replace now.

Watch: How vote counting machines work

That's because they found an issue in the canvassing and consolidation system's source code and had to make changes to it. To make it compatible with the election management system, they now have to make changes to its source code as well.

Sen. Koko Pimentel, who heads the joint congressional committee overseeing the elections, said he is quite disappointed at the Comelec for not having started their preparations earlier. He explained that the polling date is set by the constitution and cannot be changed.

So that means the Comelec—ready or not—must push through with the polls on May 9. An option would be to delay the polls in a small number of areas or hold manual elections in those places on election day.

"Well, kulang sila sa early preparation. I’m disappointed na ang dami nilang na-encounter na delays na with anticipation ang foresight, sana na-foresee na nila," Pimentel said.