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Comelec may retain source code of old PCOS machines

THE Commission on Elections may retain the source code of the old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 polls even without an upgrade, acting Comelec Chairman Christian Robert Lim admitted on Monday.

“For 2016, there is a big possibility that the existing machines we have will also be used with the 2013 source code,” Lim said. “We are still studying that possibility of upgrading it.”

Lim said retaining the present version of the PCOS machines will allow different stakeholders to review the source code early.

“So the fact that the source code is already here and, if indeed we use the 2013 source code, then we can always open up the source code review anytime,” Lim said after the poll body announced that week that the source code will be opened for review in May.

Lim noted that in 2013, the Comelec was severely criticized for opening the source code review less than a week before Election Day.

The source code consist of the human readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do.

Section 12 of the Poll Automation Law provides that the Comelec should make the source code “available and open to any interested political party or groups, which may conduct their own review”.

However, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that if the PCOS machines will be subjected to upgrades, the source code will also have to be altered and will have to be re-certified again.

“If substantial changes are made to the old machines, then the source code that we have now will probably look very much like the one we will use again. But whatever changes are made to the PCOS, they will definitely have to undergo a source code review,” said Jimenez.

Jimenez earlier said opening the source code review a year before the elections will minimize criticisms from poll watchdog groups claiming that the Comelec is not complying with the law.

As for the new voting machines, Lim said the Comelec has already required potential suppliers to place the source codes of their machines under to escrow.

A total of 23,000 OMR voting units are set to be used as supplement to the more than 80,000 existing PCOS machines in the 2016 elections plus more than 400 DRE units that will be pilot-tested by the poll body in the municipality of Pateros.

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