Published On: Thu, Mar 29th, 2012

Controversy on COMELEC’s PCOS machines justified

Renato “Tato” Garcia, a member of the Comelec Advisory Council recommended the use of optical mark reader or OMR technology for next year’s election. Groups such as the Movement for Good Governance and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) said they will question before the courts the Comelec’s resolution to purchase the PCOS machines.

The IT executive said although undervotes or abstentions were prevalent among senators, provincial governors, and councilors, this was “a clear voter behavior on multiple positions”. There were also undervotes for vice governor and party-list at 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, he added.

Garcia took issue, in particular, with the assertion of Dr. Pablo Manalastas, IT consultant of Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), who alleged that there was alleged “evidence of large scale transmission errors” during the elections. The IT executive who served as consultant to the 2010 elections said the main justification for the Comelec’s controversial decision to buy the PCOS machines would be the successful holding of the automated polls.

“As everyone knows and reported by media based on their own data access from the KBP server at Pope Pius, more than 80 percent were transmitted in less than 12 hours,” Garcia said.

“Total PCOS transmission within two days was 93 percent. Transmissions from the PCOS were made to three servers: the municipal consolidated canvassing server (CCS), the Comelec central data server and the KBP/electoral reforms/political parties server. All the 450 PCOS (less than 0.5 percent) that failed were immediately replaced. No single precinct did undertake a manual counting,” he said.

Garcia pointed out that the CCS canvassing sites transmitted more than 99 percent.

“Transmissions were made from municipal/city CCS to the Provincial CCS, and the Comelec Central data server. In turn, the Provincial CCS transmitted to the Comelec Canvassing Center (for senators), the Senate/Congress Canvassing Center (for president/vice president) and the Comelec Central data server,” he said.

Garcia also said that n addition to more than 80,000 SIM cards, 5,500 BGANs (Broadband Global Area Network), 396 DSLs, and 680 VSATs (very-small-aperture terminal) were used for transmission in the 40,000 voting centers and CCS sites.

Garcia, who also serves as a lecturer at the John Gokongwei School of Management at the Ateneo de Manila University, also underscored the fact that the PCOS machines do not need long print outs or LCD displays, unlike in DRE technology.

“Voters in PCOS/OMR can review their ballots before feeding into the machine,” he said.

As for questions on security raised by the PCOS critics, Garcia said the passwords provided to the BEIs (board of election inspectors) were sufficient authentications for the transmittal of ERs (election returs) and COCs (certificate of canvass) and were compliant with Republic Act 9369 or Election Modernization Law.

“Personal digital signature systems were not locally available and the government had not at that time established the structure and system for accreditation and certification,” he said.

“To use Verisign at $25 per BEI for example would not provide official local authentication. The cost at that time was outrageous. The BEIs were also unprepared and would be required to enter their selected encrypted personal PINs, which personal digital signatures would then have to be configured into each machine three months before election,” he added.

Garcia personal digital signature applications are now being piloted by DOST and may cost less than $5 per BEI.

“Since DepEd appointments of BEIs are made only a few months before election (subject to frequent changes up to election day), this today remains an operational challenge,” he said.

About the Author

- is a neogeographer and a contributor for National Geographic Asia. He's also an open source advocate promoting the use FOSS by advocating open standards and developing tools to speed up and ease web and software development. Gregory has lived in Reykjavik and Tokyo, but now lives back in his hometown in Singapore

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