Comelec to use pirated software in 2013 polls
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2012 - 12:00am

The Philippines is striving to live down its notoriety in film, music and info-tech copyright theft. Yet its very government is about to embark on one of the biggest software piracies in the world.

This is the warning being spread by IT professionals about the Comelec’s insistence on contracting Smartmatic for the automated balloting in May 2013.

But, as if inured to a humiliating international blacklisting, officials of the election body are ignoring the alarms. And since the Comelec is constitutionally independent, the executive and legislative branches are just watching silently on the side.

Smartmatic, a Venezuelan company with many other assumed nationalities, is to run the precinct count optical scanners for the automated voting. But it does not own the PCOS operating software. The real software developer, Dominion Voting Systems of Canada, has dis-authorized Smartmatic from any further use. The two firms have sued each other in America for damages.

The Comelec is acquiring 82,000 PCOS units from Smartmatic for P9 billion under a lease-purchase deal. The machines will be used by 55 million voters in 250,000 polling precincts, mostly in the 7,107 islands but a good number also in Filipino embassies, consulates, and work camps overseas.

The Comelec first leased the machines from Smartmatic for P7.2 billion, for the 2010 presidential-congressional-local elections. Last March it decided to buy the machines, for an additional P1.8 billion, for the midterm polls in 2013.

The following month, however, Dominion rescinded its software licensing agreement with Smartmatic. This effectively deprived the latter of the authority, under international patent and copyright law, to use Dominion’s intellectual property.

In the 2010 election, Smartmatic depended on Dominion to develop, revise and adapt the PCOS software to the Philippine setting. The arrangement was in violation of the Automated Election Law of 2008, which mandates that the system provider must also own the operating software. The Comelec ignored the criticisms at the time, and continues to do so to this day.

The AES (Automated Election System) Watch, composed of IT experts, academics and NGOs, is urging Congress to look for a new technology provider. This could save the country from international sanctions, as well as ensure an accurate, acceptable ballot count. The AES Watch also is questioning the reliability of Smartmatic’s machines, because of imprecise vote tallying in a recent product demo in Congress.

IT professional Nelson J. Celis, AES Watch spokesman, said that with the Comelec purchase of Smartmatic’s 82,000 machines, the poll body will be promoting pirated technology in May 2013.

UP professor Bobby Tuazon, head of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, asked the Comelec to listen to the IT experts’ cautionary words. “Why is the Comelec, dominated by lawyers who are not knowledgeable in the complexities of the PCOS technology, not taking heed?” he remarked.

The Comelec has been keeping mum about Dominion’s rescission of Smartmatic’s license to use its software.

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Corruption and incompetence is an open secret at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. Additional details continue to pour in from industry sources:

• A select group of CAAP air traffic controllers presently administer the English proficiency test for pilots and navigators. English is the language of aviation. The International Civil Aviation Organization has set a language scale of 1 to 6, with 1-3 as below par, 4 as operational, 5 as good, and 6 as native-speaker fluency. The test graders would score 4 on a good day. Too, they usually rate American, British, Australian, Hong Kong or Singapore pilots who seek domestic licenses as 6 or 5. Also Filipino amateur fliers who pay under the table. All this violates the ICAO and general English testing protocols that testers may not give grades higher than their own scores.

• A few years back, an American company that was developing lightweight aircraft material thought of relocating to the Philippines. The CAAP’s actions made it change its mind. First, the agency delayed the grant of its registration. At the same time, it set an arbitrary fee on the company of P10,000 for every aircraft takeoff and landing.

• Last September the Swiss personal pilot of a Filipino billionaire was caught doctoring the flight logbook. The CAAP denied renewal of his domestic pilot license. Still he flew from Basel to Manila via Italy without a valid license, a second violation. And yet the CAAP rushed issuance of a validation so that he could fly his boss from Manila to Europe for the Christmas holidays.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com

 

ALSO FILIPINO AUTOMATED ELECTION LAW AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM BOBBY TUAZON CATCH SAPOL CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF THE PHILIPPINES COMELEC DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS OF CANADA SMARTMATIC
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