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Tempers flare as machines glitch, queues stretch for hours as Filipinos hold out for right to vote

MANILA - The polling precinct where she signed up to vote did not open till 6am, but Ms Estrella Gabino, 69, thought it best to go early. As a house help, she is used to waking up at 4am anyway.

Despite reaching the polling station early, she still had to queue for an hour and a half to cast her ballot, as there were already at least a hundred people ahead of her.

Those who came after her were not as lucky.

Most had to queue along the streets for up to eight hours, baked by a searing morning sun outside the precinct in a gated community in Parañaque city, south of the capital Manila.

This scene was happening elsewhere across the Philippines, as voting machines were plagued by paper jams, unreadable ballots and printing issues, amid a massive wave of voters mobilised by one of the Philippines' most heated electoral races in over 30 years.

In a video posted on Twitter, a teacher on poll duty was seen slapping the side of a voting machine to get it to spew out a stuck ballot sheet.

In many precincts, the heat and the crowd were just too much for some.

A poll watcher in Manila's Tondo district suffered bruises after he lost consciousness and fell to the ground as the day's temperature soared to 35 deg C.

In Biliran town, 900km south of Manila, a 70-year-old man reportedly died of heat stroke.

On Facebook and Twitter, voters complained about a host of deficiencies in the voting process itself.

Many places did not have enough voting booths. At one precinct in Manila, there were no special provisions for the elderly and people with disabilities, leaving them to join regular queues.

Two hours before polling closed at 7pm, calls were mounting to extend polling by two more hours, as many precincts still teemed with people determined to exercise their right to vote.

"This delay is not the fault of the voters. Most of the time is spent in the queue," said Senator Francis Pangilinan, one of the candidates for vice-president.

Tempers flared as those still queueing demanded an explanation for why they were suddenly on the verge of being disenfranchised.

"We don't want to talk to you! We want someone who can give answers, not excuses!" a woman was captured on a viral video shouting at a volunteer trying to placate a roomful of voters at a precinct in Quezon City, north of Manila.

Ms Maebel Quiambao, 38, a mall clerk, had been queueing since 1pm at another precinct in Makati city, the country's financial hub, but was still lining up as 7pm approached.

"My vote will be wasted if I walk away now. I won't let that happen," she said.

Poll officials, however, said there was no compelling reason to extend voting.

Imelda Marcos, the mother of Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr, votes during the presidential election in Batac, Ilocos Norte, on May 9, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Dr William Yu, an info tech director at a volunteers' group helping the Commission on Elections, said only 200 out of some 107,000 voting machines failed. The situation is manageable, he told reporters.

Not everyone endured trial and tribulation to cast their vote.

Certainly not for former First Lady Imelda Marcos, mother of presidential forerunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, 64.

Already 92 years old, Mrs Marcos still managed to put on a show.

People cast their votes in the presidential election at a polling precinct in Batac, Ilocos Norte on May 9, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

At midday, she walked through an irate crowd waiting to cast their votes at a public school in her home province of Ilocos Norte, leading a long retinue that included her daughter, grandson and several aides.

She sat in a chair, filled up her ballot, asked for tissue paper that took three aides to produce, and then left, fully aware of the impressions she had made. The Imelda show was over in less than an hour.

As the sun set, the grounds in many precincts were littered with discarded sample ballots, campaign posters and plastic bottles.

A bitterly fought election was over. Now, on to the reckoning.

Philippineselections