Conduct of automated polls will favor nobody
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
Saying that the 2010 polls is “bigger” than anyone, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said that the poll body will not allow the automated elections to be used by any candidate to gain more power.
“We won’t allow this to happen, we won’t allow failure of elections to happen to favor anyone, we simply won’t allow it,” Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters at a press briefing.
The commissioner issued the statement after multinational firm Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA) said in its report that given President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s “failure” to intercede and address election-related worries of various sectors suggest that she wants an “imperfect” or failed elections to ensure that her allies are put in power.
“Because [Mrs.] Arroyo has already been implicated in election fraud, most believe [Mrs.] Arroyo would be willing to exploit any perceived malfunction in the automated election to her advantage,” said the report.
The President, along with several known allies, is seeking a congressional seat in the May polls. Critics have speculated that the move was made to pave way for her plans to gain the speakership.
Larrazabal, however, said that the public should trust them enough that they would not allow any anomalies to happen in May. He said they should not doubt the poll body just because many controversies hounded the earlier commission.
“This is a different commission now, you have a new chairman, new commissioners. You don’t base actions and judgment of a particular office simply because of what happened before,” he said.
The commissioner, who heads the poll body steering committee on automation, likewise said that the issue of elections is “bigger” than all of the candidates combined.
“The elections is bigger than President Arroyo’s administration, the Liberal Party, the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Bangon Pilipinas, Ang Kapatiran, or any other political parties… this is the future of the Philippines and people should realize that,” he said.
Areas of concern
PSA, in its report, said that the physical security plans for the housing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines remain “undetermined.” It also said that several “critical” hardware and their components supposedly have not been fully tested by the Comelec.
It added that the lack of “rigorous” field testing or mock elections and of “reliable” signals in areas all over the country “raises” concerns.
It also said that the source code, the software to be used in the automation of the polls, remains “highly restricted.” The Comelec never disclosed the source code review findings, (there was) no full independent systems audit report released to date,” it said.
The multinational firm likewise expressed worry that extra memory cards would be “illicitly” substituted for actual memory cards after voting closes.
PSA also said that the Comelec failed by hiring “unknown” forwarders for the delivery of the PCOS, delaying the ballot printing, giving insufficient training for teachers, not having a complete pool of technicians, and not being able to cleanse the voters’ list.
Larrazabal, for his part, said that these assertions are not “based on fact.”
“This statement is speculation, it’s not based on fact… they still insist on rumors which have no basis,” he said.
The commissioner said that all the PCOS units have been tested upon their arrival at the Smartmatic-TIM warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna. He also said that they will be tested once more during the testing and sealing of the voting machines three days before election day.
He added that they have conducted enough field tests to test the system and that they have allotted Broadband Global Area Networks (BGAN) and Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) for the transmission of election results in areas that do not have available cellular phone signal.
He also said that they have opened the source code for review but that nobody went through with the process and just settled for the walkthrough. “You’re limiting yourself to seeing only half of the picture,” he said.
Larrazabal likewise said that the memory cards may not be substituted because they are “encrypted.” He added that even if they were to be misplaced, 30 election returns have already been printed at the precinct level for verification.
The commissioner also said that PSA’s assertion that the forwarders they picked were unknown was false. The poll body had earlier said that the Germalin Enterprises (National Capital Region), Ace Logistics (North and South Luzon), and Argo Forwarders (Visayas and Mindanao) were known in their field and have been used by the Comelec in previous elections.
He added that there is no delay in the printing of the ballots and in the training of the teachers who will serve as board of election inspectors in the May polls. As of Friday, 43.7 of the 50 million ballots to be used in May have been printed while more than 150,000 teachers underwent training last March.
He said that Smartmatic has also assured them that they have enough technicians to deploy on election day.
Larrazabal also said that the cleansing of the voters’ list has “nothing to do” with automation, although they have already taken steps to address the issue. “(The) Comelec is open to questions… what’s important is these concerns are being addressed,” he said.
The commissioner also said people should not try to bring them down but help them conduct a successful elections.
“What’s important is we work together. People want this to succeed, even if some don’t, there are too many people who want this elections to succeed and with everybody’s help we know it will,” he said. – GMANews.TV