(NAMFREL is an independent poll-watch body composed mostly of volunteers. I was a volunteer in 2010 (?), and again this year for the May 13 elections. I was tasked to observe the delivery of PCOS machines today at a school in Fairview, and here’s what happened.)
It’s another hot, lazy Saturday, and when I woke up at close to 9 am, my first thought was not wanting to leave the air-conditioned comfort of our bedroom, ever. I turned on my phone and saw a message that convinced me that was my first wrong move of the day. Our NAMFREL coordinator, Francis, had texted, asking could I please go to North Fairview Elementary School today at 8 am and observe the PCOS delivery there. My sleepy brain suddenly registered the time. 8 am? But it’s past nine already. Heck, I had to get up and get going, fast!
I made sure I had with me my NAMFREL ID, my smart phone (for texting updates and taking photos), and my SLR camera (for taking more, and hopefully better, photos). Breakfast was not an option, as I was very late already. But I did put some crackers and water in my already stuffed handbag.
I headed straight to Fairview Elementary School (FES), which wasn’t too far from where I lived. I voted here before, so I was familiar with the place. I noticed that like yesterday and every day this summer, it’s warm, warm, warm outside. I was glad I had an umbrella, a hand fan and some water. Yup, I’m a regular girl scout!
At the school entrance was a poster with the PCOS delivery schedule. It said that the machines were supposed to be delivered any time between 8 am and 5 pm, so that gave me some leeway. Our coordinator, Francis, had also texted to correct the 8-am time he had mentioned earlier.
Inside the school, at around 9:50 am, some thirty teachers or so were already waiting for the delivery. The principal wasn’t there yet. I introduced myself to the teachers, and sat waiting with them. They said they had been there since 8 am. One teacher worried that the PCOS might be delivered late, but hopefully today, not tomorrow. Apparently, in the previous election, they had a very late next-day delivery of the PCOS machines.
After a while, I thought it might be a good idea to check out the action in nearby North Fairview Elementary School (NFES). Maybe they had better luck there and their PCOS machines had arrived. It wouldn’t hurt to see. Besides, waiting here was tedious.
NFES is just about ten minutes from FES. When I got there, I immediately saw that the PCOS machines had indeed been delivered. They were lying on the floor, and the Air 21 delivery man and a school official were conferring in front of what seemed to be delivery documents.
I learned that eleven PCOS machines were delivered, and that there too were eleven clustered precincts in the school. I asked if there was a twelfth extra PCOS in case one of the others malfunctioned. The school official said there wasn’t. This made me frown a bit, because Francis had told me that there was supposed to be one reserve PCOS per school. The school official was Ms. Eden Mercado Salamera. I hadn’t ascertained if she was the school principal, but she did seem to be the person in charge. She was busy with the delivery documents, and I didn’t want to bother her too much, although she was very accommodating naman. She said it would have been nice if I had been there earlier to witness the unloading of the PCOS machines. I asked the delivery man, and he said their next stop was Fairview Elementary School, where I had been waiting earlier. I thought, “Great! I can be there and watch the whole shebang, from unloading to turnover!”
With that in mind, I quickly snapped a few photos at NFES and almost ran back to FES. I didn’t want to miss the arrival of the vans there. When I got to FES, I was panting and sweating. Of course, the teachers were still there, and they were glad to hear that the PCOS had been delivered in nearby NFES. That meant they didn’t have to wait much longer.
Unfortunately, it took more than an hour before the Air 21 vans arrived. Right smack when the teachers were having their lunch at around 12:03 pm, the vans and their police escorts came in at FES. There were two vans and two police cars. The vans were carrying eight PCOS machines each, which made for a total of 16 PCOS, equal to the number of clustered precincts in the school. Again, there wasn’t a reserve PCOS. The principal at FES, Ms. Eugenia Cristobal, was in fact startled at the idea of having an extra PCOS machine. I guessed she thought it might pave the way for election cheating, and I could see how that might be possible.
With the arrival of the vans, the delivery man (who was the same person who delivered the PCOS at NFES) sat down with the police officers and looked at delivery documents. There seemed to be a lot of paperwork. They checked serial numbers and precinct numbers. The two had to match exactly.
There was a few moments of waiting before the unloading could commence. The principal still wasn’t there, and she was called by one of the teachers to come as soon as possible.
When Ms. Cristobal arrived, she welcomed everyone, including the three PPCRV volunteers who had also come. She was very accommodating and eager to show how things were done under her leadership.
They first inspected the seals on the van doors. In each van, there were three seals in place.
Afterwards, the vans were opened one at a time. This was how the inside looked.
Next came the unloading of the PCOS machines.
All in all, there were 16 PCOS machines in sealed white boxes, 16 black boxes and their covers (sometimes referred to as “garbage bags”), and 16 power supplies. The principal and delivery persons checked whether the precinct numbers on the PCOS machines matched exactly. Also printed on the PCOS were serial numbers that had to match with what was on the delivery documents.
When everything had been unloaded, the principal called each precinct chairperson (who was a teacher in the school), and turned over to her a particular PCOS machine. As mentioned, every PCOS corresponded to one particular precinct, and there couldn’t be any mismatching. This was another tedious process. Each chairperson had to check her PCOS paraphernalia, present her ID to the Air 21 personnel, check the delivery documents and sign them. After the paperwork, she then took her PCOS machine and deposited it in the school library, which was the designated storage place for all the voting machines. As there were 16 PCOS machines, 16 people had to do all these individually, and it took some time.
Even though the Air 21 delivery guy had what seemed to be high-tech equipment, the turnover took a long time. He painstakingly checked against many documents, wrote down the names of the receiving persons, checked their IDs, and so on.
I couldn’t stay to watch the entire process, but I think I saw enough. Everything seemed to be done correctly, and in an organized although lengthy manner. I thanked the principal for accommodating me, and said goodbye to the PPCRV volunteers who said we should work together.
As I was leaving the school, a heavy downpour had started. It was about 1:40 pm already, and I had missed lunch (in addition to breakfast). But I left with a satisfied feeling, glad that I had helped in some way, no matter how minute and perhaps inconsequential to the grand scheme of things.