Manila: A senatorial candidate asked the country's election body to fix "at once" the problematic ink reader of the machines that will be used by some 40 million voters in the country's first automated polls on May 10.

"The Commission on Election should now buy the 76,000 portable UV ink readers which will be used by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), in inspecting the number of ballots that will be filled up by voters in the May 10 polls," said Congresswoman Liza Masa, now a senatorial candidate.

In January, during tests that were undertaken on the 82,300 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that will be used on May 10, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that its private partner, Smartmatic-TIM, bought the wrong ultraviolet (UV) ink that was used in the printing of ballots.

As a result, the PCOS machines could not read the security numbers that were printed in the ballot, said Comelec.

Because of the problem, Comelec has decided to turn off the UV ink reader feature in the PCOS machines while the 76,000 portable UV ink readers are being purchased.

"The present state of the election machines will allow election fraud to occur in May, specially if Comelec fails to buy the 76,000 portable UV ink readers, as it has planned to solve its problem," said Masa.

"Comelec will not even have enough time to find out if its solution to its problem is the most effective remedy," Maza added.

Comelec has appropriated P1 billion (Dh83.3 million) for the purchase of the hand-held UV lamps.

Comelec has began a bidding for this purchase, said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez. Earlier, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said that some of the ballots have misaligned UV markings that could not be read by the poll machines. He blamed Smartmatic for the technological problem.

"The UV ink reader is one the most important security features of the PCOS. It ensures the authenticity of the ballots," information technology expert Obet Verzola told Gulf News. The ballot's other security markings include 160 GSM custom-made paper from Canada, 2D barcode, Comelec's security markings, and precinct numbers.