Public fear over PCOS fraud rising
THE BOHOL CHRONICLE, MARCH 10, 2013
A growing number of concerned citizens have expressed fears that the automated elections in May 2013 would be vulnerable to massive manipulation due to the insecure and untested machines used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
In an online poll, the Chronicle has found that most Boholanos believe that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines could be used to reverse the electoral decision of the people, a belief rooted in the events that led to the surprising results of the 2010 national elections.
Atty. Julius Gregory Delgado, a Boholano lawyer working at the FIRM, the countryâ€™s most influential and biggest law firm, in an exclusive interview, said that there were a lot of loopholes discovered in the 2010 elections which remain uncorrected to these days.
â€œIt is undisputed that there were discrepancies between the uploaded/transmitted precinct results in the CCS of city/municipal BOCs and the printed election returns from PCOS Machines,â€ revealed Delgado, Boholâ€™s first district coordinator of the 2010 Elections Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota.
â€œAs admitted by the COMELEC, in COMELEC Resolution No. 8914, this was caused by erroneously saving the FTS or Final Testing and Sealing results instead of the actual precinct vote count in the back-up CF cards that were used in uploading/transmitting to the next canvassing level, to the COMELEC Central and Backup Severs and to the KBP Server,â€ he explained.
Delgado pointed out that in a letter etter dated May 27, 2010 to the Joint Congressional Committee by Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr., a total of at least 285 clustered precincts covering at least 186,275 votes were affected by the erroneous transmission of FTS results.
Delgado disclosed that that during the 2010 elections there were two million null votes.
â€œSurprisingly or incidentally, most of these null votes were in the bailiwick of Senator Mar Roxas or in the Visayas and Mindanao,â€ he said.
â€œEven if it is an automated elections, it is susceptible to tampering and manipulation because there is human intervention,â€ Delgado disclosed.
Atty. Delgado, consenting to the Chronicle interview in his capacity as a private citizen and voter, said that the source code is the most important element of the automated elections because â€œthis is the central program directing the PCOS machines how to read ballots.
â€œThe parties, at least the majority or dominant and the minority, should be allowed to conduct a source code review,â€ Delgado said.
The Boholano lawyer said that safeguards to a credible and honest election were not followed in the 2010 elections like the Random Manual Audit wherein the Comelec was supposed to do random sampling in every municipality.
In a separate online interview, Atty. Nilo G. Ahat, an election expert and Boholano lawyer based in Cebu City, said that â€œwhile the integrity of the digital aspect of the automation election system is technically and legally defensible, the voting process does not seem to complement the concept of automation which presupposes faster result.â€
Asked whether an automated elections in the Philippines would be free from fraud and the results honest, Ted Ramasola, a Boholano tech/digital genius based in the USA, replied: â€œMy short answer is no. My long answer is: it takes more than automation to make an electoral exercise honest and fraud-free.â€
Ramasola said the people should take â€œa long hard look at the institutions of the country that are involved in the whole electoral exercise. He posed the following questions: â€œAre they fair? Are they impartial? What is at stake for them for making sure the election turns out they way it should?â€
Valerio â€œRioâ€ Makinano III, a Boholano based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also told the Chronicle that election fraud can still happen despite automation.
â€œIt is man who made these computers/machines, so it is man who also knows how to manipulate them. Regardless how secure the machine is, there are still hackers dedicating their lives to unlock (the source code) and sell their services to politicians,â€ Makinano said in a Facebook message to the Chronicle.
Complementing Makinanoâ€™s statement, Delgado, on the other hand, cited the American election experience in 2000 that saw George Bush and Al Gore contesting the Florida poll result.
â€œThey used touchscreen system. But there were reports that buttons did not match the pictures of the candidates. If you push the button for Gore it counted to the adjacent candidate in the screen, Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party. Buchanan got many votes when we know only candidates from the Democrat and Republican parties get many votes,â€ recalled Delgado.
TRUST and PCOS MACHINE
Atty. Lahat said he still trusts in the PCOS Machine, â€œand the combination of software and hardware that comprise it, and I trust that it can really function as such.â€
â€œGiven its encryption level which is expressed in â€œundecillionâ€, hacking is next to impossible. In fact as a matter of comparison, the lotto machine which has a much lower encryption level has never been heard to be hacked. Legally, I also trust in the automation project, which was already reviewed and approved by no less than our Supreme Court setting en banc in ROQUE vs COMELEC, G.R. No. 188456, 10 Sept. 2009,â€ Ahat told the Chroncle.
Ahat narrated that he had the occasion to observe in the last election that the Comelecâ€™s concept of â€œclustering of precinctâ€ was the cause of delay â€œbecause the clustered precinct shared only one Board of Election Tellers (BET).â€
â€œSo in a clustered precinct of four, the BET will have to look at four voterâ€™s list,â€ Atty. Ahat said.
He expounded: â€œThis is where the process is snail paced. And most of the time the PCOS lays idle while a kilometric line of voters queue for their turn to vote. It would have been different if the individual precincts are allowed to vote separately with their own BET, and then they will only share one PCOS Machine. This is more logical than the Comelecâ€™s concept because it takes lesser time to feed the ballot into the PCOS than to secure and accomplish the ballot.â€
Meanwhile, former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman said that â€œno mock election conducted by Smartmatic ever yielded accuracy of 99.995 percent or better.â€
The Automation Law of 2008 and the Comelec-Smartmatic contract of 2009 required that rate, Lagman was quoted by Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc as saying.
In the said column, Bondoc, quoting words from Lagman, said that â€œcompact-flash memory cards inside the PCOS contain computer commands for proper functioning. The CF cards found in the Cagayan de Oro city dump showed how easy it was to steal them.â€
â€œThe 60 PCOS units found in the house of a Smartmatic technician in Antipolo, Rizal, showed how easy it was to hijack the machine itself,â€ the columnist said.
â€œIn 2010 the PCOS had an open port outside. Through that open port, a techie could connect a laptop and tamper with the software and CF cards inside,â€ Bondoc noted.Linkback: https://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com/index.php?topic=71535.0