Comelec to open source code for review today

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has finally agreed to open today the source code of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which it will use for the May 13 elections, for review by political parties and other groups.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that while the examination of the source code is not mandatory under the poll automation law and could only be done after the polls, it would be done this week to “dispel doubts on the PCOS (machines).”

“We can start the review of the source code (today) but only by those who are entitled to conduct the review,” Brillantes told justices of the Supreme Court (SC) in an oral argument yesterday.

Brillantes, however, stressed that the review and examination will not be granted to all interested parties since the Comelec has set requirements for groups to qualify.

He submitted to the high court a list of qualified parties that can review the source code, including the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

He was summoned by the SC to answer the petition filed by UNA senatorial candidate Richard Gordon seeking to compel the poll body to allow political parties to examine and review the source code.

But the Comelec chief stood firm that the law only requires independent review of the source code by an international firm.

“Source code review by a political party is not mandatory, it is good for purposes of credibility,” Brillantes stressed.

Brillantes also contested Gordon’s allegations that the source code may be technically manipulated.

“Candidates who don’t place in surveys suddenly go to the court and complain, they didn’t even ask us,” he added.

During the hearing, Gordon urged the high court to either order the postponement of the elections or revert back to manual counting of votes.

Gordon argued that the PCOS system should not be used because the required review of the source code was not met and that the review takes about two to three months to complete.

“If they (Comelec) are not ready, we can’t inflict it upon our people. Elections will be flawed,” Gordon said.

But Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, an appointee of President Aquino, rebutted his plea.

“Unless authorized by law, it (SC ordering Comelec to cancel the polls) may not be done,” Leonen explained.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, also an appointee of Aquino, agreed with Leonen.

“The word ‘shall’ in the sections in the Automated Election Law does not give the Court the authority to cancel the May 2013 elections,” Sereno explained. “Where in any statute does it say that the election should not proceed if the source code is not shown?”

“What you are asking us to do is to intervene and not allow the election to push through. Your mandamus (petition) says you want to make the source code available to you,” Sereno told Gordon.

A heated exchange between Sereno and Gordon ensued when the senatorial bet cited the power of the President to appoint SC justices after she grilled him.

“Why did you bring that up now? Please be careful,” a visibly offended Sereno warned.

‘Source code review will bolster case vs Comelec’

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines College of Law professor Harry Roque said yesterday that the move of Comelec to open the source code of the vote-counting machines for public review will bolster the election irregularity case filed against the government before the United Nations.

Roque, one of the lawyers who filed the case before the UN Human Rights Committee, told The STAR that Comelec’s move will strengthen their claim that their rights were violated as no source code review was conducted before the 2010 automated elections. –With Janvic Mateo, Sheila Crisostomo

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