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Due to security concerns, the Comelec Negros Oriental has changed the location of VCM testing.

DUMAGUETE CITY — Due to security concerns, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Negros Oriental stated Monday that final testing and sealing of vote-counting machines (VCMs) will be done at centralized venues rather than polling precincts just a week before the May 9 elections.

Comelec-Negros Oriental province election supervisor-designate Lionel Marco Castillano informed the Philippine News Agency that the decision was based on the recommendations of municipal and city election officers.

Originally, the VCMs’ final testing, scheduled for May 5, would have taken place at the individual voting precincts where these automated machines are assigned to confirm their operability and to allow time for troubleshooting if any issues arose, according to Castillano.

“However, election officers raised concern about the security of the VCMs at the polling locations, especially in rural areas, in a recent meeting,” he stated, “given that they would be stored for a few days before the polls.”

The presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army, as well as heated political competition, are among the security worries, according to Castillano.

Canlaon City, Vallehermoso, Ayungon, Bindoy, Manjuyod, Pamplona, Sibulan, Valencia, Sta. Catalina, Bayawan City, and Basay have designated public gymnasiums as their centralized testing venues, according to a list acquired by the Philippine News Agency from the Comelec.

Final testing and sealing will take place in Guihulngan City, Tayasan, and Dauin’s covered courts, while La Libertad, Jimalalud, Tanjay City, San Jose, Bacong, Zamboanguita, and Siaton will do so in public schools.

Bais City’s amphitheater, Mabinay, the municipal evacuation center, and Amlan, at the town’s Plaza Square, will be the final testing and sealing locations.

Dumaguete, the provincial capital, is the only local government unit where all of the VCMs will be tested at voting sites.

Political candidates or their legal counsels/representatives, as well as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the National Movement for Free Elections, which are recognized citizens’ arms of the poll authority, will witness the final testing and sealing of these VCMs, Castillano stated.

He stated that police and military forces would be dispatched to the testing locations to ensure the safety of the VCMs, teachers, and Comelec workers.

Last month, the province got 1,471 VCMs, about equal to the number of clustered precincts where voting will take place next week.

Once the VCMs have been checked and sealed, they will be held in a storage room designated by election officers and deployed hours before polls open at 6 a.m. on May 9, along with official ballots and other election paraphernalia, according to Castillano.

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