Comelec allays CBCP’s fear of massive cheating in May

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes yesterday allayed fears of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on wholesale cheating in the May elections with the use of the precinct optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Brillantes said the PCOS machines used in the 2010 elections have been improved and will be reused in the May elections.

“We are using exactly the same machines and we even improved it, so I think it should be a better or enhanced election,” he said.

On Tuesday, the CBCP asked the Comelec to address concerns on automation, saying cheating may happen at the level of the machines.

Brillantes said he still has to read the CBCP statement but assured the bishops that the poll body has been working on the deficiencies of the system.

“We will try to cope with whatever they think are deficiencies,” he said, adding that they respect the opinion of the bishops.

Earlier, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento assured the public that nine enhancement measures are in place to protect the machines from tampering.

“Although they have been used in 2010, it won’t be easy to hack them,” Sarmiento said.

The Comelec had decided to buy more than 81,000 PCOS machines used in the 2010 elections from Smartmatic International Corp. for the May elections for P1.8 billion. 

Source code certification

Meanwhile, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and poll reform advocate Ramon Casiple expressed concern that the Comelec may be opening the floodgate for electoral protests if it will not adhere to the requirements of the law on source code certification.

Macalintal said losing candidates might use the lack of certification to question the result of the elections.

“For me, as long as the election results are accurate, as long as it will not affect the election, there is no problem. Having no certification, for me is just a formal defect. But it may also be used in filing electoral protests,” he said.

Casiple, a member of the Comelec Advisory Council in the 2010 elections, said Comelec may be violating the law if the source code would not be certified.

“As I understand it, the source code must be certified before any election. The certification in 2010 does not apply in the 2013 election. The 2010 election is a separate matter,” he added.

“The software is legally owned by the Comelec but having it certified is another matter. Certification is given for a specific election,” he said.

The source code is the computer program that enables the PCOS machines to read and count votes.

Brillantes earlier admitted that Denver-based Dominion Voting System refused to allow the certification of the source code by SLI Global Solutions, a company based in Colorado.

Brillantes said the Comelec would use the source code even without certification.

Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law requires the certification of the source code by an independent body and that it should be kept in escrow at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, as the Comelec did in the 2010 elections.

Dominion had given Smartmatic International Corp. the license to use its source code in operating the PCOS machines it supplied to the Comelec.          

However, Dominion terminated its worldwide licensing agreement with Smartmatic in May 2012, prompting the latter to file a lawsuit before the Delaware Chancery Court in Florida.

Brillantes said it does not matter if the source code is certified or not, noting that the Comelec is not involved in the conflict.

“Even if Dominion is not here, we will proceed with the elections,” he said the other day during the inauguration of the ballot printing machines at the National Printing Office in Quezon City.

Brillantes added SLI had already completed the evaluation of the source code but it could not issue the certification without Dominion’s consent.

“Dominion and Smartmatic are just fighting over money... There’s no legal implication because the case in Delaware has nothing to do with us,” he said.

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