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No automated poll machine is fool-proof - Comelec exec

May 27, 2009 9:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — There is yet no assurance that the automated poll machines the Commission on Elections (Comelec) hope to used for the 2010 election will be foolproof, an official of the poll body said Wednesday.

Ferdinand Rafanan, chair of the Comelec’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC), said he is banking on a vigilant citizenry to make up for whatever shortcomings the machines may have.

“Nothing is fool-proof … and we are not looking for a fool-proof machine," Rafanan said.

But he added that “the best defense against manipulations of the automated machines are the people. We could still use the people... the people are still useful."

Rafanan made the observation Wednesday during the end-to-end demonstration of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) of the consortium of the Netherland-based Smartmatic and Total Information Management Systems Inc. (TIM).

To prevent possible sabotage by bidders who failed to qualify in the bidding, Rafanan banned the use of electronic devices as this may cause “electronic interference" on the machines and affect the transmission results.

Rafanan cited the case of airplanes where electronic devices such as cellular phones, laptop computers as well as music players were ordered to be turned off during the entire flight to ensure that it will not cause any interruptions.

He said that the terms of reference (TOR) did not include any protection against “electronic interference."

Nonetheless, he said the issue on “electronic interference" may be addressed during the customization of the machines once they awarded the P11.3 billion contract to the winning bidder.

“We can improve on whatever deficiencies for as long as they already passed the criteria," he said.

Earlier, the Comelec-Technical Working Group listed 26-criteria for the features of the automated machines that the bidders must meet.

But Rafanan said the best defense against manipulations of the automated machines “we could still use the people... the people are still useful."

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo had earlier said they could still conduct another bidding should the bidding being held now fails.

He said they are considering partial automation if the bidding failed.

“We will discuss that in the commission en banc, kung pwede ang partial automation… But as of now, full automation pa rin talaga ang gusto natin," Melo related.

Under the rules, Comelec can conduct another bidding if the first one fails and could also enter a negotiated transactions if the second bidding fails too.

But the Comelec officials are not considering entering into a negotiated bid since this is prone to criticism.

Demonstration of the machines is still ongoing and expected to be completed tomorrow. The SBAC tested two machines of Smartmatic/TIM Wednesday but 5 machines were brought by the consortium for demonstration. - GMANews.TV
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