PCOS source code: Proper, accurate, secured

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Four days before the polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) finally acquired yesterday the controversial source code of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and made it available for local review.

Michael Santos, senior test manager of SLI Global Solutions, gave the CD containing the source code to Dominion Voting Systems representatives Reed Bodwell, engineer manager, and Dallas Newby, project manager, during the presentation at the Comelec office in Manila.

Dominion turned over the source code to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.

“We’been working very hard for the last five months. (Now) we are prepared to come out with the source code in the open and all interested parties will now be allowed to review it,”he said.

Brillantes expressed gratitude to Dominion and Smartmatic for agreeing to give the source code to the Comelec despite their pending legal dispute in a Florida court.

“We owe it to Smartmatic and Dominion. They do not want that the elections in this country on May 13 will have some taint of vagueness or lack of credibility,”he noted.

According to Brillantes, SLI had reviewed and certified that the “code given by Dominion to them is actually not malicious software, proper, accurate and secured.”

“These are the three words – proper, accurate and secured – that is the certification of SLI after they conducted the source code review,”he added.

The poll chief, however, refused to divulge the conditions that made Dominion and Smartmatic set aside their dispute, citing the pending case in Florida.

Brillantes added that the “action”of the feuding companies ensures that the Comelec complies with the pre-requisite requirement of having the source code reviewed by a third party.

He added the issue of “”of the automated elections is also “settled with the presence of the source code and its availability to all the political parties that indicated their desire to review is in compliance with Republic Act 9369”or the poll automation law.

Brillantes noted the Comelec is “99.99 percent” ready to administer the polls, especially since the source code of the PCOS machines is already in the agency’s possession.

“We cannot postpone. There is no reason to postpone. It’s four days away and if there is postponement, there will be only one ground – only an act of God would postpone the elections,” Brillantes said.

According to Brillantes, the Comelec does not have the authority to cancel an election in the first place. He claimed this would require legislation by Congress.

The poll chief made the statement amid the call of senatorial bet Richard Gordon to move the elections and the fears that the recent Luzon-wide blackout would disrupt the polls. Gordon has been criticizing the poll body over the source code.

Concerning the power supply on election day, Brillantes gave assurance that the PCOS machines have back-up batteries that would last for more than 12 hours.

Aside from this, the Comelec has also acquired 900 additional generator sets that would be distributed throughout the country.

Sealing of source code

As a procedure, Dominion had authenticated the CD turned over by SLI that it was the same one it gave to SLI to certify.

The source code was then installed in a desktop that only contained Windows operating system and the driver of the printer.

Jose Tolentino, head of the Comelec’Project Management Office, said it would be the same desktop that will be used for source code review.

After this, the source code was encrypted by Dominion and turned over to the Comelec.

To secure the data, Dominion, SLI and Comelec have keyed in their respective passcodes.

The source code was then placed in a small safety box that was brought and deposited in escrow at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

After sending the source code to the BSP, Comelec’citizen arms like Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and National Citizen’Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and political parties like the Liberal Party and PDP-Laban started reviewing the source code.

Brillantes has asked Comelec’critics to shut up and help make the coming elections successful.

“What I’saying is we are already into election, very close. We will concentrate on that so, to my friends from the outside, it’okay now. The source code is already here,”he said.

But poll watchdog Kontra Daya was not impressed.

In a statement, Kontra Daya said that while the source code is now here for review, “problem is, with just three days left before the midterm elections, a thorough review of the source code to verify its trustworthiness in counting our votes is now impossible.”

Kontra Daya said the Comelec “have saved everyone, including itself, a lot of time and effort if it had required that the source code be made available at the time when it procured the system.”

“But we must also reiterate that the problem is not just the negligence of Comelec. The very design and framework of the automated election system is deeply flawed as it overly relies on private, foreign corporations and their technology. Lest we forget, the availability of the source code was hostaged by the corporate dispute between foreign vendors Smartmatic and Dominion,”it added.

Guidelines for canvassers

The Comelec had also issued a resolution that set guidelines to the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) for the canvass and consolidation of votes for senators and party-list groups.

In Resolution No. 9686, the Comelec has set the rules on pre-proclamation controversies.

Citing several provisions in the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), the Comelec said that pre-proclamation controversies related to the preparation, transmission, receipt, and custody of the certificates of candidacy are not allowed in the canvass of votes for senators and party-list groups.

This is intended to prevent the disruption of the electoral process.

The resolution shows that each candidate and political party, organization or coalition, accredited citizen’arm may appoint two watchers to serve alternately to witness the canvass proceedings.

“(They) shall likewise be entitled to attorneys who shall serve during the canvass, provided that only two registered attorneys for each candidate or party shall sit at any given time in a place designated for them,”the resolution further stated.

The testing of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in 459 chartered precincts in Antipolo City last Thursday was a success.

Police and military personnel and representatives from various government agencies are now guarding the PCOS machines.

Rene Gaton, Antipolo City election officer, said police and military units secured the Comelec personnel during the arrival and distribution of the PCOS machines.

Representatives of all political parties and teachers that would man the polling places in Antipolo witnessed the distribution of the PCOS machines.

Those who witnessed the testing were representatives from the six major political parties in the city, plus those from the PPCRV, Public Information Office (PIO) and NAMFREL.

According to Gaton, the testing of the PCOS machines was done simultaneously in designated precincts with the use of ten excess ballots in the mock elections.

Gaton said there was no glitch in the testing of PCOS machines in Juan Sumulong Elementation School while the orientation of teachers, especially the Board of Election Inspectors (BOI), went smoothly.

After the mock elections, the PCOS machines counted the votes and the result was compared to the manual counting of votes, and the figures matched.


However, glitches marred the testing of polling machines in Butuan City early this week.

Some units had no batteries or modems or both. There were machines that just failed to scan or rejected ballots.

Two PCOS machines failed to scan and would not accept ballots while another one at the JT Domingo Central Elementary School in Barangay Limaha malfunctioned.

PCOS machine technical support officer Leotila Asilo said another unit at the Doongan Elementary School also failed to scan.

Asilo and members of the BEI of polling precint no. 136 recommended to the Comelec the immediate replacement of the PCOS machine.

JT Domingo Central Elementary School principal Nenita Mojica-Diolata, PCOS technical support officer Liezel Sumagpao and BEI members also recommended the replacement of another PCOS machine after it repeatedly malfunctioned.

Some 96 PCOS machines out of the total 231 PCOS machines in Butuan City have encountered problems.

City elections officer Ernie Palanan said the problems were minor and could be easily addressed.– Sheila Crisostomo, Non Alquitran, Ben Serrano

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