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Ex-poll commissioner, lawyer: Arrival of source code 'too late'

A lawyer and a former poll commissioner on Tuesday said that the announcement of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) about opening the source code for review came just a bit too late.   “It’s just too late. The law requires examination of the source code, not just presentation. The belated arrival of the source code is useless against safeguarding the sanctity of the ballot,"  lawyer Harry Roque said in a statement.   Roque, who represents the group of individuals who filed a complaint with a United Nations body accusing the Comelec of depriving them of their right to suffrage, issued the statement after the Comelec announced that source code owner US-based Dominion Voting Systems has agreed to release the code for review by local groups.   In an interview with reporters, poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. denied that the 2013 source code's arrival was “too late,” noting that their present detractors were the same group of people who sought to review the 2010 source code after the elections.   The review was aborted after the group imposed the condition that it would bring the source code to another location.   He further said the detractors were saying that nothing will happen to electoral protests with the absence of source code.   “Pag walang source code wala daw mangyayari sa mga protesta dahil hindi alam kung ano ang nangyari. Kaya importante na may source code para pagkatapos ng eleksyon makikita kung may mali, so importante after, pagkatapos ng eleksyon,” he said.   Brillantes said the source code is already in the country and under the custody of SLI Global Solutions’ Mike Santos, who arrived Sunday night.   The Comelec is just waiting for the arrival of Dominion Voting Systems representatives either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Dominion owns the source code and earlier refused to release it due to a legal tiff with Smartmatic.   Brillantes said Dominion, after a series of negotiations, finally gave in to the request to avert being blamed for causing election trouble.   “Ayaw nilang mapagbintangan sila na sila ang nakaapekto sa eleksyon natin. Nothing illegal because Dominion now voluntarily wants to give the source code,” he said.   The poll chairman said he wanted the source code to be reviewed once it is turned over to the Comelec, suspend review during elections and continue it after the polls.   The 2013 source code should be put in a vault in Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.   Section 11 of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law says that three months before elections, there should be a “successful completion of a source code review; a certification that the source code is kept in escrow with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; and a certification that the source code reviewed is one and the same as that used by the equipment.”   But in a roundtable discussion with GMA News Online on Tuesday, IT expert Gus Lagman explained that it will take at least four months to conduct a thorough review of the source code, which is the set of instructions to be followed by the computerized voting machine.   And with only less than a week to go, he said, the release of the source code is basically useless.   "[A] source code review by local IT experts will give voters confidence that PCOS software is clean, [but now] transparency is completely lost," he said, adding that some CF cards in 2010 did not have the Write Once, Read Many (WORM) feature.   He likewise cited earlier mock elections where the accuracy rate was questionable.   "[I have] no report yet on the last mock elections, [but] I suspect it might even be worse," he said.   Roque said the failure of the Comelec to have the source code re-examined for both the 2010 and 2013 elections will "surely bolster" the claim of the petitioners before the UN.   "Their rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have been violated by the Comelec and Smartmatic," he said.   But aside from the source code review, Lagman also raised concerns over the poll body's alleged failure to ensure that a credible random manual audit (RMA) will be conducted after the polls.   Section 24 of RA 9369 requires an RMA to be conducted in one precinct per congressional district in each province and city.   In the 2010 polls, five precincts per legislative district were included in the RMA.   Lagman said he was worried about Brillantes' pronouncements that they will return to one precinct, which he said would make the sample smaller.   He also said he was worried about the absence of digital signatures in the PCOS machines.  But the Comelec said last December it will be using the PCOS digital certificate to digitally sign the election returns.   The former poll commissioner has been pushing for manual counting and electronic canvassing.   Lagman was named Comelec commissioner in April 2011.  But a year later, his appointment still was not confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA) and Malacañang decided not to reappoint him. — BM, GMA News