MGG Expresses “Strong Objection” to COMELEC Purchase of PCOS Machines

PRESS RELEASE

MGG Expresses “Strong Objection” to COMELEC Purchase of PCOS Machines,
Cites “Many Deficiencies of Smartmatic”

The Movement for Good Governance (MGG), a coalition of reform advocates, joins the watchdog groups Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) andTransparentElections.Org.Ph in expressing its “strong objection” to a planned move by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to purchase the same Smartmatic PCOS machines that were used in the 2010 elections.

MGG, through its Chair, noted economist, professor, and media personality, Solita “Winnie” Monsod, expressed the view that such a move would again throw into question the integrity of election results.

As Monsod pointed out, “there are numerous legal and technical grounds for our objection, and as responsible citizens of this country we cannot allow the voting results to be compromised.”

MGG appeals to the COMELEC not to enter into another contract with Smartmatic, citing position papers by LENTE and TransparentElections.Org.Ph. Both LENTE andTransparentElections.Org.Ph were actively involved in monitoring the 2010 automated elections and draw from the expertise of their members in the law and information technology fields. Neither group is politically aligned.

MGG shares LENTE’s position that the COMELEC can no longer exercise its option to purchase the Smartmatic PCOS machines.

According to LENTE, there are legal impediments such as the fact that the option no longer exists. Under the contract, the option expired on December 31, 2010. Any extension of the period to exercise the option beyond December 31, 2010 amounts to a new contract that requires new bidding under the Government Procurement Reform Act or R.A. 9184

MGG also supports TransparentElections.Org.Ph’s position that Smartmatic failed to meet the obligations initially agreed upon in the Terms of Reference (TOR) given by the COMELEC when it bid out the Automated Election System (AES) for the 2010 National Elections and should therefore no longer be considered as a contractor.

TransparentElections.Org.Ph listed ten deficiencies of the Automated Election System (AES) of Smartmatic that were observed during the conduct of the 2010 elections, among which are the following: the failure to detect fake ballots, the removal of the Voter Vote Verification from the PCOS machine, the disabling of the Digital Signature, and the failure to certify “99.995% accuracy” of the PCOS machines. For the latter, this was “not done for each and all units before use in the elections,” according to Ma. Corazon Akol ofTransparentElections.Org.Ph, who is also the President of the Philippine National IT Standards Foundation (PhilNITS).

“Any one of these deficiencies could have compromised the integrity of the system. Given that many of these deficiencies were PCOS-related, we see absolutely no reason why we should support the use of these same PCOS machines in the 2013 elections,” Monsod pointed out. “These are serious threats to the validity of any vote cast on these machines.”

“Prudence dictates that Smartmatic ought to be blacklisted. We should learn from the lessons of the past lest the vulnerabilities in the AES be used by some unscrupulous operators to manipulate the results of future elections,” said Akol.

Monsod reiterated, “We urge the COMELEC to heed our call for Smartmatic to be banned and blacklisted from automating the 2013 elections.”

The position papers of LENTE and TransparentElections.Org.Ph will be made available on the MGG website. For more information, or to tie up with the MGG for election-related activities leading up to the 2013 polls, contact Aissa Ereñeta of the MGG Secretariat at 898-2617.

Niña Terol-Zialcita

Niña Terol-Zialcita is a “Communicator, Connector, idea Curator, and Changemaker” who uses the power of words and ideas to advocate causes and promote the Philippines at its best. She is ProPinoy.net’s Deputy Editor, as well as Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler, the longest-running travel magazine in the Philippines. When she is not writing, blogging, or traveling, Niña is conducting writing workshops with Writer’s Block Philippines, hanging out at art galleries and cafés, and performing poetry with her husband, percussionist and performance artist Paul Zialcita. She is also the author of the book "[r]evolutionaries: The new generation of Filipino youth and youth organizations".