Even without the use of statistical tools, Automated Elections System (AES) Watch already predicted weeks ago about the expected behavior of Smartmatic on the parallel bidding of the P3.1 billion refurbishment of the 82,000 Optical Mark Reader (OMR) or Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in 2010 and 2013 and the P12.641 billion for the lease of new 93,977 PCOS machines.
As anticipated, since Smartmatic has already won the two separate biddings for the 93,977 PCOS machines (i.e., 23,000 and 70,977) at their total bid of P9.6 billion, they did not anymore participate in the bid for the refurbishment which led to the second failed bidding last Saturday. With whom will the refurbishment contract be negotiated now when Smartmatic backed out already? But it is very clear that the choice of Smartmatic is to lease new machines rather than refurbishment!
Better yet, we listen first to the upcoming decision of the Supreme Court on the three pending petitions against Smartmatic last month. The first petition was filed by eight Catholic bishops led by Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, the second was filed by AES Watch led by Center for People Empowerment in Governance and Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and the third was filed by IT professionals led by former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman.
But why is it that Smartmatic did not bid anymore for the refurbishment of the existing 82,000 PCOS machines in spite of the approved budget increase from P1.2 billion (http://www.manilatimes.net/declare-smartmatic-ineligible/153560/) to P3.1 billion? AES Watch analyzed that the following are some of the major reasons:
• Less financial gain
• PCOS machines were proven defective in 2010 and 2013 elections (e.g., faulty program as manifested in the recalling of the 76,000 CF cards during the final testing and sealing on May 3, 2010, digital lines discovered in 2013, unreliable rewritable CF cards, Dinalupihan case showing tampering of PCOS machines, Sultan Kudarat case, Tuburan, Basilan case, Bro. Eddie Villanueva case, etc.)
• Not compliant with election automation law or RA 9369 (e.g., no voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or receipt, no digital signatures, no source code review, no proper contingency plan, etc.)
• Technology is primitively obsolete
Come to think of it, it’s déjà vu! AES Watch is seeing that we shall be taken for the third unpleasant ride this coming 2016 presidential elections if Smartmatic’s PCOS machines are used. We should learn from the bad experiences we had in the past. Smartmatic leased the machines for P7.2 billion pesos for the 2010 elections and Comelec bought it through option to purchase at P1.8 billion for 2013 elections. History would tell us that Smartmatic failed to train Comelec’s IT personnel to properly maintain the machines. It was their responsibility then as per contract. Hence, they should be held liable for their negligence. Comelec should therefore sanction Smartmatic by putting back the 82,000 PCOS machines to A-1 condition and correspondingly shoulder the whole cost of refurbishment.
Should the decision of the Supreme Court favor the three petitions against Smartmatic, Comelec Chairman Bautista assigned Commissioner Al Parreno to come up with contingency measures. Worse comes to worst, Comelec could go back to manual elections. Commissioner Parreno need not worry about it because our elections in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 were all manual despite of the AES law enacted in 1997 (RA 8436).
Wait a minute! Comelec doesn’t need to return back to manual elections. Whether contingency plan or even a straightforward 2016 AES plan, the only transparent technologies feasible left are the combined alternative solutions called Precinct Automated Tallying System (PATaS) and TrAnsPArenT Election System or TAPAT (http://www.manilatimes.net/the-future-is-here-now-lotto-boto/200445/). Both are Filipino innovations under the Filipino IT for Elections (FIT4E) project of AES Watch.
Chairman Bautista and Commissioner Rowena Guanzon personally experienced in a mock elections held on July 20, 2015 at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila how easy it is to use TAPAT. Commissioner Guanzon remarked that unlike PCOS TAPAT has VVPAT which a voter could use to verify if his votes are counted. On the other hand, though Chairman Bautista said that TAPAT has the potential to be used in future elections, he commented that Comelec cannot experiment using it in 2016 elections. Aside from Comelec running out of time, he said that they need to use a technology that has been tried and tested. Perhaps, Chairman Bautista doesn’t know that the Smartmatic PCOS machines used in 2010 elections did not pass through pilot testing as required by AES law. That means, those machines were not tried and tested technology as far as our country is concerned. Literally, those machines were supposedly programmed based on the Philippine conditions and RA9369. But unfortunately, Smartmatic failed!
Comelec also knows that it takes time to manufacture new 93,977 PCOS machines, refurbish the existing 82,000 ones or have the source code certified. With due respect to Chairman Bautista, AES Watch is pretty much sure that with TAPAT, Comelec would not be experimenting with it and the preparation for 2016 elections would be shorter. Why? The tablets to be used in TAPAT are commercially off-the-shelf gadgets. Not only cheap and easy to use, tablet technology is considered mature and there are local companies producing Filipino-made tablets.
The TAPAT developers, the Villasantas, just built an android program and installed it in the tablet. It’s not rocket science! Thus, experimentation is not required! Further, TAPAT is compliant with RA9369 and it is ready to roll out anytime (https://www.facebook.com/njcelis/media_set?set=a.1015348 9109981661.1073742006.546351660&type=3).
On August 6, 2015, the members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on AES will see TAPAT for the first time. If JCOC could bring in Smartmatic’s latest PCOS model in the hearing for comparison with TAPAT, they would surely see how Filipino ingenuity would overshadow the obsolete PCOS technology.
Our elections next year are very crucial! We should not allow any non-compliant AES to rule our land and be a tool of unscrupulous politicians to use as a cheating mechanism. Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, “We always tell the people to vote wisely, not to be besmirched by vote buying. However, with all our reminder to the people, a question still arises: were the votes canvassed properly? Were the votes of the people important?”