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Comelec to create committee to address PCOS issues

Alleged technical defects of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines will be threshed out in a new special committee, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday.   “We will have to create a special committee that will be open to hear, listen to any and all concerns of everybody involved in the technology aspect,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes following a dialogue with critics of the use of the PCOS equipment for the 2013 elections.   Brillantes said the Comelec will create the committee because it wants to address through continuing dialogue the issues raised against the PCOS. The poll body has yet to decide on who will lead the committee.   There already is a Comelec Advisory Committee (CAC) chaired by Louis Napoleon C. Casambre, executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the Department of Science and Technology.   CAC members also include DOST Undersecretary Fortunato T. dela Peña and representatives from the Chief Information Officers Forum Foundation (CIOFF), Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation Inc. (PETEF), and Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA).   Also in the CAC are the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).   Critical of the PCOS are the Automated Election System (AES) Watch headed by former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona Jr., the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S), and a group of advocates led Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, former Marawi City Mayor Omar Ali, and former Quezon City Representative Mary Anne Susano.    These election watchdogs opposed to the PCOS tried and failed to stop Comelec’s purchase of the 82,000 PCOS machines when they questioned the option to purchase contract between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.   The PCOS units are undergoing examination and testing.   “We won’t pay a single cent to Smartmatic until we have examined and tested each and every machine. This is what we’re doing now,” Brillantes told news media after an inspection of the PCOS warehouse in Laguna.   Supreme Court ruling   “Another reason posed by petitioners for their objection to the exercise of the option and the eventual execution of the March 30, 2012 Deed of Sale is the existence of the alleged defects, glitches, and infirmities of the subject goods,” the Supreme Court noted in its June 13, 2012 decision upholding the PCOS purchase contract.   “The technology provided by Smartmatic-TIM was not perfect, because of some technical problems that were experienced during the 2010 elections. Petitioners herein doubt that the integrity and sanctity of the ballots are protected because of these defects,” the decision stated further.   But the high court was not persuaded by the doubt cast by the petitioners.   “We do not agree. Prior to the execution of the Deed of Sale, the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM had agreed that the latter would undertake fixes and enhancements to the hardware and software to make sure that the subject goods are in working condition to ensure a free, honest, and credible elections,” the SC said.   The court recalled the admission of former Commissioner Augusto C. Lagman that “there are possible software solutions to the alleged problems on the PCOS machines and it is not inherently impossible to remedy the technical problems that have been identified.”   The justices acknowledged that “there is skepticism that Smartmatic-TIM would be able to correct the supposed defects prior to the 2013 elections because of its inaction during the two years prior to the exercise of the option…”   But the magistrates agreed with the view Comelec chairman put forward–“that it is absurd to expect Smartmatic-TIM to invest time, money and resources in fixing the PCOS machines to the specifications and requirements of the Comelec when prior to the exercise of the OTP, they do not have the assurance from the Comelec that the latter will exercise the option.” — ELR, GMA News