Fatal flaws
(The Philippine Star) - December 21, 2014 - 12:00am

“Failure of elections” may occur if technical troubles encountered on the vote counting machines (VCMs) being offered by the company Indra Sistemas are experienced during the 2016 national polls.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials said the pitfalls of using “unproven” voting machines showed up during Monday’s demonstration of Indra’s VCM as observed by the technical working group of the poll body’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

A Comelec BAC official said the fatal weakness of Indra’s machine were revealed during intense scrutiny of the Technical Working Group.

There are 14 members of the bids committee chaired by Helen Aguila-Flores and vice chairperson Jubil Surmeida.

The official disclosed that, out of the 408 items on the TWG’s checklist the Indra machine flunked 121. 

“We should be very careful who we allow to supply our elections systems. This is courting danger. If we experience these technical troubles on a massive scale on election day, it may result in the failure of elections,” the official added.

A Spanish information technology provider, Indra is one of just two entities bidding for the Comelec’s P2-billion contract to provide election system management and supply 23,000 voting machines to augment the 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 national elections.

The other bidder, Smartmatic-TIM, supplied the 82,000 PCOS which were used in the first two successful automated elections in 2010 and 2013.

It was observed that Indra’s machine failed to allow for a verification of data which might allow the possibility for inconsistencies in the data model.

Indra also did not show that after reaching the maximum number of registered voters in the VCM in a specific precinct, no more ballots would be accepted. This, a BAC official stressed, poses a major danger, as more ballots could be accepted by the VCM.

The BAC members also noted the danger that wrong ballot layouts and contents would be sent to be printed with potential delays in the printing schedule, and the wrong ballots could be distributed on election day.

This concern is caused by the lack of verification feature of the Indra machine, which allows verification only after the ballots are printed.

The Comelec made it clear that this validation is needed prior to the printing of the ballots, and that it is intended to contrast the configuration files of the election management system (EMS) with the ballot faces that are to be sent to printing.

Reports received by the poll body also claimed that Indra allegedly did not submit a board resolution designating a branch office as its local representative.

Instead, it submitted a board resolution dated as far back as 2008 proving the authority to establish a branch office in the Philippines. There is no indication that that authority pertains to the bidding for the 2016 elections.

Last week, Capiz Rep. Frenedil Castro, chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral reforms, urged the Comelec to scrutinize and examine every bidder who would participate in the Comec bidding, particularly since it involves billions of pesos taxpayers money.

“Those found questionable, doubtful and suspicious should be disqualified outright as part of the cleansing process,” Castro informed the Comelec BAC which conducted the first of a two-part bidding process for the supply of additional machines to be used in the 2016 elections.

Castro’s committee has scheduled a congressional inquiry relative to the 2016 election, particularly on the reports that Indra, with local offices in Pasig City, is involved in an ongoing corruption investigation in Spain and has a questionable track record in its Southeast Asia operations.

The port saga

The incident at the port terminal facility of the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI) in Vitas, Tondo, Manila in the early morning of Dec. 19 is both downright unlawful and disheartening.

Police records show that about 100 men armed with high-powered firearms tried to take over the 10-hectare private port facility of HCPTI in Vitas.

Around 48 of them were nabbed and their weapons confiscated.

It was not  the first time that someone tried to take over the port. Last month, armed men also made a similar clandestine attack which was unsuccessful.   

Whoever ordered the surreptitious and treacherous attacks on HCPTI is still not clear, but many believe that it has something to with the ongoing court case involving the truck scale/weighbridge service providers, called One Source Port Support  Services Inc. hired by  HCPTI in 2007.

Their contract was cancelled this year by HCPTI due to breach of contract. HCPTI  has brought to the attention of One Source complaints regarding  faulty and inefficient truck scale/weighbridge operations, but the complaints were unheeded.

One Source questioned the decision of the HCPTI rescinding their contract as it showed a new agreement it purportedly signed last June 5, 2014 with another group at HCPTI to provide not just weighbridge services, but also the entire port management services.

The group was able to get a TRO and recently a preliminary injuction from Pasig Court Judge Rolando Mislang.

However, the armed men who tried to enter and take over North Harbour were not carrying a valid court order and were not accompanied by the court sheriff or his deputy. No writ of execution has been issued by the Pasig court to implement the order.

The Pasig court’s order prevented the HCPTI board from representing themselves as owners of defendants; from collecting, receiving and disbursing any and all funds on behalf of HCPTI; from entering the terminal without the express consent of the subcontractors, their agents or representatives and any act that would be prejudicial to the peaceful possession of the subcontractors to the terminal facility.

Sources said the court order granting the preliminary injunction is highly questionable because the order effectively removed from the HCPTI board the control and supervision of  the whole port operation and gave it to One Source, which is a mere subcontactor.

It is alleged that the supposed port management contract given to One Source is fake and spurious, not to mention that the assignment to a third party if port management is prohibited under Philippine Ports Authority rules.

It will be recalled that the HCPTI board headed by Reghis Romero II rescinded the port management services contract with One Source  which was awarded to the latter by a group headed by his eldest son, Michael Romero.

The young Romero used to be CEO of HCPTI until the father took over the leadership of the prime port facility.

But no matter how one looks at it, it is still disappointing to see family members engage in a bitter battle.

It is hoped that the issue is resolved soon and that the courts resolve it based on the evidence and existing laws and jurisprudence.

For comments, email at philstarhiddenagenda@yahoo.com

A COMELEC A SPANISH COMELEC ELECTIONS HCPTI INDRA ONE ONE SOURCE PORT
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