Manila Standard : Comelec assures public: No more hours-long glitch

By Vito Barcelo | Manila Standard

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it can guarantee there will be no repeat this year of the hours-long glitch that marred the 2019 midterm elections, even as the poll body grappled with the fallout from the cancellation of the final presidential and vice presidential debates.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said the officials responsible for authorizing a P15.3 million payout to the poll body’s debate partner, Impact Hub Manila, despite assurances that no public funds would be spent on the debate, would stay on their jobs while the deal was being investigated.

“Nothing has changed in the Comelec. He is still the face of the Comelec, the official spokesperson,” Garcia said of Director James Jimenez, one of two poll officials who approved the payout.

The other was Comelec Education and Information Director Frances Aguindadao Arabe. Both executives are being investigated for possible criminal liability for an alleged “disadvantageous deal” with Impact Hub Manila, the private company that organized the presidential and vice presidential debates.

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart, Garcia said the seven-hour glitch in the 2019 midterm elections was caused by a bottleneck in data coming from several precincts.

He said the Comelec was able to determine that the transparency servers had been swamped by too much incoming data, a problem that has since been corrected.

The official canvass of the presidential and vice-presidential race will begin on May 23 when Congress resumes its session, Garcia said.

He added that the mayors may be proclaimed as early as May 9, Election Day, while winning governors, vice governors and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan could be announced by May 10.

The results for party-list, congressional and senatorial races could be canvassed by May 16, Garcia said.

Garcia said preparations for the elections would not be affected by the internal investigation of the debate fiasco.

Both Jimenez and Arabe, however, would stay on their jobs, even though Commissioner Rey Bulay who heads theinvestigation had recommended that they be relieved.

In fact, Garcia said, Jimenez even spearheaded the walkthrough of the transparency server for the media on Saturday.
Garcia Bulay’s recommendation had not yet been accepted, nor has there been any action from Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan.

Bulay ordered a probe after the poll body nearly paid Impact Hub Manila P15.3 million without any legal basis since the contract to organize the debates with the private firm was supposed to be “free.”

The Comelec was forced to postpone by a week, then eventually cancel its final round of debates after the owner of the venue, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, said Impact Hub Manila still owed it P14 million.

Garcia said he had “not heard of any complaints” about Jimenez or Arabe, and there have been no calls for their resignation.