People wait for their turn to vote at Baseco Elementary School
People wait for their turn to vote at Baseco Elementary School in Manila yesterday. Filipinos voted in an election that is expected to strengthen President Duterte’s grip on power. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: Malfunctioning voting machines and hundreds of arrests over allegations of vote buying disrupted mid-term elections in the Philippines on Monday, but authorities said there would be no significant impact on the results.

Lawyer James Jimenez, the spokesman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said while between 400 and 600 vote-counting machines (VCMs) failed to perform properly, the number of affected units was not large enough to have a significant impact on the outcome of the polls.

“That is a small figure, out of 85,000 VCMs. So it seems to me it’s still within the [acceptable] range,” Jimenez said during a press briefing at the National Board of Canvassers headquarters at the in Pasay City.

Final results are expected to be declared in at least a week for national posts and a few days for local positions unless specific outcomes come under protest.

Earlier, certain candidates expressed concern over reports over the number of VCMs breaking down and getting replaced in the middle of the election process.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the senatorial candidates, said the number the number of VCM breakdowns was “three times more than that replaced during the 2016 presidential elections”.

The Philippines has 61 million registered voters, including more than a million abroad.

The automation of vote-counting has had a significant impact in improving the election process in the country of more than 100 million, officials say.

According to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, the reason why there were so many complaints in the elections wasthat fraudsters were having a difficult time penetrating the VCM system to perform their nefarious work.

Albayalde also said they are also verifying the reports of “massive” vote buying.

He said the PNP has arrested 230 people in 79 incidents of suspected vote buying across the country since January 13, the start of the election period.

He said they are confirming these reports because some candidates had a tendency to exaggerate in order to draw sympathy.

Confidence vote

The elections are being seen as a vote of confidence for President Rodrigo Duterte and his endorsed senatorial candidates and other administration bets.

“Yes, I guess, it could be taken as one referendum…Now if I am repudiated by the loss of all candidates coming from the Hugpong [administration] slate, then that would indicate that the majority of the people do not want me. That is easy to solve. If media demands that I step down, I will step down,” the president said on Sunday.

The vote had also been marred by incidences of violence and allegations of vote buying.

According to the Philippine Red Cross, an improvised explosive device detonated at Cotabato City’s Rosary Heights District at 11pm on the eve of the polls. While another blast occurred at an area in the town centre of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

No one was injured both incidents.

There were also reports of shooting in Jolo, in Sulu province that injured nine people and a clash between army troops and supporters of a local mayoral candidate in Zamboanga del Sur.

The latter incident resulted in the death of one of the civilian supporters of Domingo Mirrar, candidate for Lakewood mayor.