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Comelec admits PCOS test imperfect

By Joel E. Zurbano | May. 04, 2013 at 12:02am
Deputation. Deputy National Police Chief Ager Ontog briefs some of the more than 30,000 police officers who will be dispatched to the areas labeled as election hot spots to help keep the peace ahead of the May 13 elections. Below, a man is shown inspecting the Precinct Count Optical Scanning machines that had been delivered to the Pasay Elementary School for the May 13 elections. Manny Palmero and Danny Pata

COMMISSION on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes admitted Friday that some minor problems occurred during the final testing and sealing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines, saying there was no such thing as perfect testing of the machines.

He made the statement in reaction to reports that minor glitches marred the final testing and sealing of the PCOS machines in the first district of Pasay City on Thursday.

“There will always be problems,” Brillantes said.

“The FTS [final testing and sealing] is not perfect. I would be alarmed if it was because that would mean it had been tampered with. There has to be some deficiencies, but the thing is that what happened in 2010 will not happen again.”

Brillantes was referring to the various system flaws and technical glitches in the 2010 elections. The problems included the disabling of the ultra violet scanner, the absence of a digital signature, and the recall of thousands of compact flash cards days before election day.

Brillantes made his statement even as Richard Gordon, one of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance’s senatorial candidates, filed through his lawyers a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to compel the Comelec to allow the political parties to examine the source code of the PCOS machines.

Gordon, who was in Dapitan City for a campaign sorties with UNA’s other candidates, said the source code was the programming software of the PCOS machines that will count, canvass and transmit the votes on election day.

In essence, the source code is the set of computer instructions to be followed by the PCOS machines that will determine the total number of votes that a candidate has received.

“The opportunity to review the source code is very important to ensure honest, clean and credible elections,” Gordon said.

“Placed in the wrong hands, the source code could be manipulated and used to systematically subvert and frustrate the people’s will.”

During the FTS in one precinct at the P. Villanueva Elementary School in Pasay City on Thursday, a PCOS machine had a problem when a poll official switched it on but a sign “back up memory cannot be detected” flashed.

There was also a report that a PCOS machine did not recognize improper shaded ovals, while in another precinct another machine was not tested after the poll watchers discovered there was a discrepancy in its serial number.

In Gotamco Elementary School, poll officers initially did not conduct a manual count as stated in the general instructions for FTS. They claimed they did not receive any instructions from the Comelec to count the test ballots manually.

Despite those problems, Brillantes said will be no problems like those encountered in the last elections.

Meanwhile, Brillantes brushed aside reports that a number of non-government organizations are filing a complaint against the Comelec before the United Nations over its alleged violations of international law.

“I feel they just want publicity,” Brillantes said.

“It’s a publicity stunt on the part of whoever they are.”

Brillantes said they will not act to counter the complaint of civil society groups Concerned Citizens Movement, Center for International Law and Automated Election System Watch to be filed before the UN Human Rights Committee.

Last year, AES Watch asked the Supreme Court to stop the commission from buying 80,000 PCOS machines for the 2013 elections, saying the contract for the machines violated the regulations on public bidding.

The group also claimed the Comelec failed to open the PCOS source code for local review.

The lack of a source code review in 2010 was also cited as a reason for the complaint before the United Nations. With Gigi Muñoz-David
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