Comelec Assures Integrity Of PCOS Machines

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expects no wholesale cheating in 2013, especially with an enhanced precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

“We used the PCOS in 2010 and there was no wholesale fraud. We are using exactly the same machines and we even improved them, so I think it should be a better or enhanced election,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said.

On Tuesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on the poll body to address the deficiencies in the automated election system for fear of a possible wholesale cheating in the May 2013 polls.

Although Brillantes has yet to read the statement of the CBCP, he said they’ll try to address whatever deficiencies the bishops are saying.

“We will try to cope with whatever they think we have some deficiencies,” he said.

“Whatever the opinions of the bishops are, we will respect their opinions,” added Brillantes.

Several information technology organizations and poll watchdog groups have been continuously assailing the conduct of the automated elections in 2010, saying the AES (automated election system) is prone to cheating and results rigging.

But Smartmatic International has assured the public that no one can hack into their automated election system.

“I can guarantee to the public that no one can hack into the (PCOS) machines. In fact, we challenge them to even try to do it,” Cesar Flores, Smartmatic President for Asia-Pacific told reporters in an earlier interview.

Flores said even if the 2010 experience may have taught poll operators on how to manipulate the results, it would still be an impossible task due to its new security features.

“There are always new security features, improvement on the source code, digital signatures. There are always new ways to make the system (better),” he said.

In the remote event that operators succeed in cheating, Flores assured that it cannot go unfounded.

“The most important thing is that the system is completely auditable. It’s impossible to cheat and not leave a trail. It’s impossible to cheat and not be caught,” he said.

The Comelec had earlier opted to exercise its option to purchase the more than 80,000 PCOS machines for P1.8 billion, including the software and the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS).

Meanwhile, an election analyst said the source code to be used by the AES in the May 13 polls must be certified.

Ramon Casiple, former member of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Advisory Council (CAC), said the poll body cannot use an uncertified source code in the AES for the midterm elections as it would be against the provisions of the Poll Automation Law.

“As I understand it, before every election it must be certified… 2010 is a separate matter. Certification is given for separate elections,” he said.

Earlier, the Comelec said it is looking to just use an uncertified source code in the elections as the Dominion Voting Systems continues to refuse to give authority for the release of the certified source code by SLI Global Solutions.

On Tuesday, Brillantes disclosed that Dominion refuses to give its go-signal to SLI to release the certification amid its ongoing dispute with Smartmatic International.

Section 9 of the Poll Automation Law requires that a source code review be conducted on the AES; kept in escrow with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; and that the source code reviewed is one and the same as that used by the PCOS machines.

Source code is defined as the human readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do.

Brillantes, though, insisted that they can still use the source code with or without the permission of Dominion.

“We’ll continue. What is important to us is we get the certification of the SLI. Without Dominion, there may be a slight problem but it will not deter us in proceeding,” he said.

Brillantes also said that the source code for the AES has already been approved and completed but cannot be released by SLI without the approval of Dominion. By Leslie Ann G. Aquino | www.mb.com.ph

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