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Eleksyon 2013

Smartmatic, Comelec confident in PCOS machines despite glitches

May 8, 2013 12:33pm

Both the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic are confident that the results of the May 13 midterm elections will not be compromised despite glitches in the final testing and sealing (FTS) of the ballot-counting machines this week.

"Small glitches, which affect not the count," Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in a “Balitanghali” report on May 7, shrugging off critics' fears that the glitches bode ill for the second nationwide automated elections in the country.

Glitches in the FTS included paper jams as well as difficulty with the LCD screens of some machines, GMA News' Tina Panganiban-Perez said in the report.

"Everything was smooth except doon sa thermal paper, nag-jam 'yung paper. Tapos after ni-refill namin 'yung thermal paper, hindi na nag-print," said Marvin Barangay, a board of election inspector (BEI) at General Licerio Geronimo Elementary School in Sampaloc, Manila.

At J. Zamora Elementary School in Pandacan, Manila, the BEIs had to wait for the plastic seals to arrive before they could conduct the FTS.

In Albay, the FTS was delayed because the BEIs had to sort the batteries of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, as the serial numbers did not match. In Davao City, one of 12 PCOS machines for FTS was found defective.

The report quoted the Comelec as saying that only 100 machines out of 58,999 encountered problems.

"Absolutely not," Smartmatic president Cesar Flores said when asked if the glitches would affect the election results during an interview with Arnold Clavio on “Talakayan with Igan” Wednesday.

Mechanical issues

"What I'm saying is there could be mechanical issues, or the battery runs out of electricity or there's a paper jam with the printer. But when it comes to the accuracy of the reading and the security of the counting, that is never going to be affected," he added.

According to Flores, minor glitches are to be expected and are in fact welcome during the FTS.

"That what prompts Comelec to replace machines that are broken,” he said. “Remember, all the machines were tested by Comelec in the warehouse. But they have to travel long distances in trucks and different other medias of transportation. So they get shuttled, sometimes they get broken."

He also said not all glitches are machine-related. Others are due to human and procedural factors.

"Glitches will occur. There's not such a thing as an election... nowhere in the world that goes without glitches. Like I said, these are expected. I believe it's only about 100 machines out of tens of thousands of precincts that were already tested," Flores said.

Replacement machines

Comelec also has more than one machine per municipality for replacement, with a total of over 2,000 replacement machines. Unlike the elections in 2010, when Smartmatic technicians were on site in every precinct to support the BEIs, Comelec decided to take on the responsibilities of technical support for the 2013 elections, the report said.

Comelec together with the Department of Education have trained a number of teachers in handling the PCOS machines, Flores said, adding that the problems in 2010 could not be fixed by Smartmatic as they were human-related.

"You can only fix it with better training," Flores said.

Meanwhile, Maricor Akol, head of the systems group of National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), said it would be difficult to prevent internal tampering with the PCOS machines, because they had not reviewed the source code that will be used in the machines.

"Ang ating tinitingnan lang ngayon ay 'yung physical, pero hindi natin alam kung ano 'yung heart and soul inside the machine. Wala tayong pre-knowledge kung ano ang laman noon," Akol said in an interview with analyst Winnie Monsod on “Unang Hirit” Wednesday.

For Akol, the inability to print a transmission report is a major factor. "Sapagkat 'yun ang heart and soul ng ating election. Yung entry pa lang, dadaan sa PCOS machine," she said, adding that there were, on the other hand, contingency measures, such as the replacement PCOS machines.

"Pero ang sinasabi natin ay sana lahat ito ay naayos na, dahil you had three years. Ang problem, kaya kami nababahala, ay dahil alam niyo naman itong mga PCOS machine, they were stored sa Cabuyao (in Laguna), at mainit naman 'di kagaya nito na malamig ang aircon. The machine has plastic parts, rubber parts, at 'yan ay puwedeng naapekto," Akol said.

Akol also said it was too late to review the source code. "Wala nang panahon para ma-review ang source code. Ang sabi, ire-review ito after the fact. Para bang forensic analysis na lang ang mangyayari. So hindi natin malalaman kung ang source code na iparereview niya, ay 'yun talaga ang na sa PCOS machine."

Source code

For his part, Flores assured the public that the local review of the source code will start this week, and will continue even after the elections.

"It will start this week. I believe that is the plan of the Commission because all the ingredients are here, all the stakeholders are here. So I think between today or tomorrow the review will start," said Flores, who stressed that Comelec opened a process for political parties and interested groups to apply for the review of the source code.

"Unfortunately I believe that only one political party and one watchdog actually applied for the review seven weeks ago. Which is a little contradictory because they claim they want to see the source code yet they don't follow the procedure that Comelec established," he said.

Flores explained that the source code had already been reviewed by SLI, a Denver-based certifying agency that is accredited by the Federal Election Commission of the US, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"I am 100 percent confident," said Flores, quoting SLI's report that "there are no instances discovered of any intentionally malicious code having been written by the vendor and included in the voting system source code."

Apart from reviewing the source code, SLI also ran a series of functional tests, including volume tests, stress tests, and accuracy tests. "The system already passed with flying colors. What is important now is that after having passed this, now the political parties have the chance to also look at it and see how transparent it is," Flores said.

According to Flores, the political parties have already reviewed part of the system, specifically the canvassing and consolidation software. "What will happen now is the review of the component that was left, which is the PCOS frameware," he said. — Carmela G. Lapeña/KBK, GMA News
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