A true Smartmatic PCOS rerun–not a déjà vu


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?”


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  1. @Arnold

    To answer your first, Yes, whether those used during the past two elections provided they are repaired and refurbished or upgraded or even the new version for the following reasons: (1) We are dealing with the largest and most reputable elections technology provider in the world with many years of experience and actual election deployments in other countries, (2) much to your groups’ rambling about .Comelec and Smartmatic breaking several laws, all Supreme Court cases against them but for one were not prosperous. They were given the greenlight by the SC to go ahead and conduct automated elections using PCOS and (3) despite your groups’ claim of inaccuracies and cheating have no basis because all protest cases in the HRET and SET did not prosper, therefore strong evidence of accuracy and no cheating. and lastly, in systems oriented projects a better performance metric is user acceptability where based on all reputable surveys post elections reflect high voter acceptance.

    With all due respect sir, your ideas for TAPAT are nothing new. What your group calls an invention is an assembly of available commercial hardware such as a run of the mill tablet running Windows OS, a thermal printer and probably a modified version of a free ware or free source scanning software. This is not of commercial grade and will not pass the scrutiny of an international certification standards mainly because of security issues nor will it pass stress tests in actual elections conditions. I understand that TAPAT or specifically the tablet has problems with lighting source and conditions which makes it unable to scan properly. This is very basic. Sorry to say sir, that your product is not yet there and let’s not risk such important elections with a prototype.

    • Vlad Ho:

      Here is my point by point refutation of your lies.

      1. The most reputable elections technology provider in the world would not have had serious problems in Chicago, New Jersey and Nevada in the US, in Mongolia, in the Phillipines and in Mexico, at least as far as we know, if indeed your claim is true. Worse, when SMARTMATIC’s US subsidiary, Sequioa Voting Systems, was placed under the US Treasury Department’s investigation concerning its foreign ownership, SMARTMATIC bailed out of Sequioa Voting Systems to prevent and stop the US investigation. These circumstances are indisputably far from being reputable. The apt word to describe your beloved supplier – MOST DISREPUTABLE!

      2. You made it appear that COMELEC/SMARTMATIC had already won a number of cases in the Supreme Court with just one loss. FALSE. While you may have won a few cases, not more than 3 if I recall exactly, the majority of cases versus COMELEC/SMARTMATIC is still pending and undecided precisely because your lawyer, the Solicitor-General, keeps on asking for postponement to file its comment (answer). I, for one, have 3 pending petitions all against COMELEC/SMARTMATIC. So, what is there for you to brag about?

      3. No protest case will ever prosper under the following circumstances: In the case of Radaza (Lapu-Lapu City), 3,801 votes representing 26.1% of votes cast were wrongly counted by the HOCUS-PCOS because of the digital lines. But in the decision of the COMELEC, it never mentioned the incidence of digital lines. The wrongly-counted votes for the position of Mayor was deliberately hidden and denominated “null votes.” Why hide it as such? They should have been honestly declared as wrongly-counted votes. If this is the attitude of those electoral tribunals, no inaccuracies will ever surface. No election cheating will ever be uncovered. But it does not mean there was no cheating at all. The operators are just adept at hiding evidence. You cannot refute me on this case of Radaza because I have a copy of the COMELEC’s decision. I will never speak unless I can prove it.

      4. High voter acceptance is a better performance metric. I agree! The latest Veritas Truth Survey shows only 55% of voters trust the HOCUS-PCOS results. This means 45% of voters do not trust the HOCUS-PCOS results. 55% could hardly be high no matter how much you stretch your imagination. This only means that the people has finally caught up with the magic of the HOCUS-PCOS and refuse to believe its results.

      5. As for TAPAT, it is more than enough for its developer to show real balls by printing out a voter receipt for the voter to verify his votes. This is in itself the true test of transparency and credibility. Sadly, your HOCUS-PCOS, despite its glowing and glorious claims bordering on the absurd, fears the verification of its opaque count. It refuses to print the voter receipt for fear of discovery of its hidden magic. In short, no matter how direly you sell the HOCUS-PCOS, it does not have the balls to face up to the scrutiny of transparency and credibility. But then, will automated election operators allow their spell to lose it magical powers? Never!

      Now, if you have more spells up your sleeve, shoot them. We will be glad to break them up publicly. But I hope you will have the honesty to show your person and not hide as a nameless troll. Our credibilty rests on our honesty.

    • That doesn’t justify the use of the PCOS anyway. hard as it may be for COMELEC to prove there was no cheating, it’s harder to swallow there wasn’t any. after all, they are very secretive with the source code, and very particular where random checks are held (not really so random).

      IF there is now other solution, as you say, then go manual! With today’s very much improved communications technology, and with all the watchers in every precinct with smartphones, it would be near impossible to cheat.

      cover the voters’ name in the ballots, and let them take a picture of the total. nothing wrong with that…

    • Andres Mendoza on

      If may quote back Dr. Celis in his column, he stated, “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).” So why do we push hard that Hocus-PCOS when we can have transparent elections in doing public counting rather than “congratulating” us after casting our votes WITHOUT assurance that our votes are counted. If Mr. Ho could really guarantee that my vote will be counted in 2016, I will be on your side but prove first how will your Smartmatic PCOS count the Filipino votes.

  2. Andres Mendoza on

    Dear Dr. Celis,

    You might be interested to view the links below which would tell our fellow Countrymen how the Election Authority in Mexico did not allow Smartmatic to muddle their election process. It’s quite similar to our experiences in the past.

    Smartmatic was contracted in one of the states in Mexico to consolidate and canvass the elections results. They failed bigtime and now many congressmen and other stakeholders are requiring the elections local authorities that they must not pay Smartmatic, that the company has to be investigated in depth because of its past, alleged links to Venezuelan government and its poor performance. There has been quite a stir.

    The news are in Spanish but you can use google to translate. Highlights are:
    • Smartmatic was contracted by Tabasco Election Authority to canvass and consolidate the provisional elections results
    • During the preparation of the elections Smartmatic carried out 8 mockup elections that were an “absolute disaster” (Congressman quoted in Spanish “absolute fracaso”:http://www.ahoratabasco.com/?p=10173)
    • They were not able to correct the detected errors and during election day, the Smartmatic system crashed and they were not able to process the results. After the irrecoverable failure, the Local Election Authority had to take over and finish the canvassing process with an internal system. The results were available after several hours past the expected time.
    o Provisional results were expected from June 7, 8pm, every 20 minutes until June 8, 8am
    o Smartmatic system went down on June 7 at 7:30 pm and it didn’t transmit any data until June 8 at 1:17am; and only around 2% of the elections returns were consolidated
    o On June 8 at 7:30pm (24 hours later), Smartmatic system had completed only 50% of the canvassing in one election and 30% in the other
    o Finally the Elections Body took over
    • Various stakeholders have required the Elections Authority to conduct the necessary investigations of Smartmatic; and they have also demanded that Smartmatic return the payments made by the Election Authority (http://www.oem.com.mx/elheraldodetabasco/notas/n3861250.htm , http://www.ahoratabasco.com/?p=10173 )

    Other related news:








    Hope the above would also give some insights to our Kababayans that our Country should not be invaded by undesirable aliens.

    More Power,


    • There will always be losers who will claim that they were cheated. There will always be groups lke AES Watch, Cenpeg, C3E who will always discredit the current providers to push their on agenda and self interests. Not only in the Philippines but apparently also in Mexico, must be a Spanish trait, crab mentality. Before you toot your horn, go research the facts.

    • Vlad Ho:

      Your argument is too overly simplistic. It makes me fret with serious anxiety that the COMELEC has been truly packed by pompous but unqualified bubbleheaded individuals. No wonder, a discredited and deceiving company like SMARTMATIC can easily pass on as “heaven-sent” in the company of such lot.

      As for losers claiming to be cheated, without fear or embarrassment, I claim that I lost by cheating by just a mere 361 votes in the 2010 elections under the HOCUS-PCOS. Consider the following circumstances:

      1. 4,114 ballots were recorded to have been scanned by 145 PCOS in Biliran about 3 days before election day.

      2. Voting in Biliran was unlawfully extended until 12.08 noon the following day, 11 May 2010. The requirements in COMELEC Resolution 8786 on extended voting were never followed by the BEIs (teachers).

      3. During such illegal extension, 4,281 voters were actually allowed to vote in 17 extended precincts as shown unmistakably by the ballot images and PCOS Audit Log Reports. The BEIs numerically indicated in the Minutes of Voting that only 2,415 voters were allowed to vote. The difference between the two figures is 1,866 voters. I lost 1,559 votes in all these inexplicably extended precincts. Worse, of the 4,281 illegal voters, only 510 had names listed on the Minutes of Voting. Do all these figures significantly jibing on material respects mean mere coincidences?

      4. Wait till you see a graphic reconstruction of the election process in Biliran in 2010 and you will see how the manipulation affected the flow of the graph until my opponent overtook my lead by 5.41 in the morning of May 11, 2010, ala last 2-minute 3-point shot. I did not lose on election day, I lost the day after the election.

      I purposely did not show more information here because I want COMELEC to sit down with me in a public forum and discuss the HOCUS-PCOS at length for all the people to see and understand. The COMELEC can pack Chairmen Melo, Brillantes and Bautista, Jose Tolentino, James Jimenez, Heinretta De Villa, Howard Calleja, Cèsar Flores and Marlon Garcia in one panel, I am not afraid to face them all alone.

      I have only one request. Grant me transactional immunity from suit and I will show all damning evidence against the HOCUS-PCOS. This is not a demand, only a request. Though I know COMELEC will never grant this request, I will not demand it because it might give COMELEC a graceful way out of this challenge.

      Now, this challenge is your chance to tear me to bits and pieces if I am simply weaving a tall tale. On the other hand, I can tear your beloved HOCUS-PCOS before the public. The ball is now in your court. I am ready anytime, anywhere!

      Any loser can claim to have been cheated. But a loser who can adequately prove he was cheated would be enough to send shivers down the spine of the bubbleheads at COMELEC!

    • Atty Chong,

      Your claims of being cheated are very hard to believe specially coming from a very small district. Your protest was already overruled by the HRET. Your passion seems to emanate from some other source or motivation. Aren’t you the prime respondent in a lawsuit which accuses you of ordering someone to tamper ballots in Baguio so that these can be used as evidence that there was cheating in your roadshows? My gut feel tells me that your strategy is “the best defense is a strong offense”! Repent and walk with the Lord! Just my opinion, no need to respond point by point.

  3. Amnata Pundit on

    I hope you can write an article telling your readers which one is better, PATAS or TAPAT just to educate the computer illiterates like me.

  4. Brian Maglutac on

    Ex-Comelec Chair Brillantes was right all along in direct contracting with Smartmatic, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of this highly specialized voting machine referred to as PCOS. One of the reasons used to justify it was this provision under RA 9184 :

    Section 50. Direct Contracting. – Direct Contracting may be resorted to only in any of the following conditions:

    a. Procurement of Goods of propriety nature, which can be obtained only from the propriety source, i.e. when patents, trade secrets and copyrights prohibit others from manufacturing the same items;

    However, smart lawyers from IBP were able to convince the justices of the Supreme Court that no one has propriety or holds intellectual property by classifying the contract to repair and refurbish the machines as a service rather than treating it as a system composed of hardware and software, some of which are protected by intellectual property. It is a flawed decision based on a flawed assumption and we found out the hard way, two failed bids which brings us back to direct contracting but so much time was lost. But this is the reality of the law, decisions can be made based on wrong assumptions and interpretations.

    This Supreme Court victory have emboldened the anti-PCOS groups to file a barrage of cases with only one thing in mind, eliminate Smartmatic and replace it with their own “experimental” alternative and be the new Kingmakers!!!

    • We are not out to be kingmakers. We just want to make sure no one will be kingmakers making tons of money selling public offices to the great detriment of the public. At the very least, we demand a transparent and credible election system. It does not have to be PATAS or TAPAT. It can very well the very same HOCUS-PCOS. Just give us the voter receipt clearly required under Section 7(e) of Republic Act No. 9369. Let’s see how the COMELEC will reply when we finally formalize this minimum demand in the next few days. Dito natin makikita ang intention ng bawat isa!

    • Brian Maglutac on

      It is my understanding that the Supreme Court has already tackled and resolved the issues of the minimum requirements of the AES law way back in 2009 and 2010 through court filings by Roque et al and Lagman et al. In the issue of voter verification, I believe the SC justices agree that the paper ballots itself and the stored scanned image of the paper ballots are sufficient enough to pass as voter verification. In other words, they think printing a paper receipt is just redundancy and will only add to the time and costs of the voting process.

      Under the current system, there are rules and limitations imposed to make the workflow of voting process efficient yet accurate. The voter is only allowed to PROPERLY shade the slot of their candidates once.
      Make a mistake, sorry na lang. That is why voter education is of utmost importance because the onus is on the voters to properly execute their votes to be counted as intended.

      Let’s take the case of TAPAT, it will print a paper receipt and the voter is allowed to verify and change his votes if not satisfied with what he sees on the receipt. How many times can he do this and how many receipts will be printed, which receipt will he insert in the designated slot, and how long can a voter keep on doing this? Systematically and practically not feasible.

      While the intentions are good, given the number of variables to consider in real time elections day, one has to come up with a system that is efficient yet accurate within the bounds of legal and operational limitations.

      With the current system, if you are a losing candidate and you feel that you were cheated or suspect that the PCOS was manipulated , you can file a protest with the HRET or SET and they will recount the votes for you. So far, there were hundreds of protests filed and none to my knowledge have prospered. What does this say?

  5. AES Watch and allies keep shooting themselves in the foot. It is your groups’ penchant for filing lawsuits against Comelec and Smartmatic that has brought us to where we are now in terms of preparations for 2016, scrambling due to lack of time. Sa kakasampa niyo ng demanda, mas magagastosan ngayon ang Comelec at napaganda tuloy ang kita ng Smartmatic. Kayo wala pa rin kita, tagal niyo ng dumidiskarte, palpak naman kasi gusto niyo kayo ang Boss.

    This is the result of your insistence of replacing PCOS with “your” PATAS and TAPAT because it only serves you best. Your proposed systems are at best just experimental prototypes that will not even pass industry stress tests and besides, it is plain and simply against the law because it has not been used successfully in a prior election here or abroad. You find it convenient to accuse Comelec and Smartmatic of violating several laws to discredit them and sow doubts about its accuracy and integrity yet you seek exemption from the law when it comes to pushing your alternative systems! What’s so special about your group?

    • Arnold Villasanta on


      If the boat you’re riding with your family is sinking, would you put your lives on your “tried and tested solution”… which rotten for 3 years in the warehouse? or even will you try the NEW VERSION of that “tried and tested product”… which are not tested yet locally…

      What made you sure that the NEW VERSION of PCOS is already “TRIED and TESTED” and already compliant with Philippine Election Code?

      Or at least…. Have you tried-out our invention yet (TAPAT) to be able to compare it with PCOS (with your personal experience in 2010 and 2013)?

      I believe in the advocacy of TRANSPARENT ELECTION that’s why me and my son approached Filipino IT for Elections (FIT4E) and had the opportunity to show what we can do.

      But we find it really very very difficult to convince even our own KABABAYAN to have FAITH and TRUST to their KALAHI.

    • Vlad Ho:

      I will answer you point by point.

      1. It is precisely in filing petitions before the Supreme Court that we, the people, can seek peaceful and lawful redress of our collective grievances against the blatant violations primarily of our election laws perpetrated with increasing impunity no less by the COMELEC. These petitons necessarily arose from actionable acts of the COMELEC in relation to its preparations in the 2016 elections. Example: The unconstitutional/illegal realignment of billions in public funds to pay SMARTMATIC under COMELEC Minute Resolution 15-0444 dated only last June 2, 2015. Necessarily, petitions assailing this act of the COMELEC can only be made after this date which is what we exactly did – file the petition on July 7, 2015. We could not have filed it anytime before COMELEC acted illegally – first, because we do not possess a crystal ball to predict its illegal acts with pinpoint accuracy; and, second, because it would have been dismissed for being premature. Therefore, all subsequent acts of those seeking redress of their grievances (kami ‘to) will necessarily act only upon the commission of violation of law by the COMELEC. If the price of the HOCUS-PCOS has gone terribly up and COMELEC is now scrambling for lack of time, you have absolutely no reason to blame us – blame COMELEC itself for committing a never-ending litany of violations of law and the constitution as if they own our tax money. The other option for the public, to put it bluntly when all legal avenues are exhausted, is to retake this wayward and de facto government by a direct exercise of their ultimate sovereignty. You will not need an oracle to know what I mean.

      2. I delve on the words “successfully used” voting system as required by law which you are invoking like a mantra to dismiss the alternative voting system like PATAS and TAPAT in favor of SMARTMATIC’s HOCUS-PCOS. SMARTMATIC’s handling of the elections in Chicago (US) was an utter failure. The Superior Court of New Jersey ruled against its DRE system. The elections in Mongolia using machines very similar to the HOCUS-PCOS with Dominion-supplied software produced digital lines like in the Philippines. The elections in Tabasco (Mexico) was a big time palpak for SMARTMATIC. Under these circumstances, can a rightly thinking individual insists that SMARTMATIC’s system (DRE and OMR) have been “sucessfully used” abroad as required by law? Is not the insistence on the use of the discredited and obsolete HOCUS-PCOS not a crystal clear example of an “exemption” of the mandate of the law?

    • Andres Mendoza on

      In the congressional oversight committee last Thursday, I witnessed Sen. Pimentel and Cong. Sarmiento directing USec Casambre of DOST to fund the R&D of TAPAT. Sorry Mr. Ho, that contradicts your statement on the insistence to replace PCOS with “your” PATAS and TAPAT. You cannot claim anymore that neither Mr. Villasanta nor AES Watch are insisting.

      Maraming salamat po Mr. Villasanta! Kayo po ay tunay na hulog ng langit. Natutuwa po ako sa “resibo” ng boto nang TAPAT…. na wala po sa PCOS ng Smarmatic. Sorry po Mr. Ho!

      Maraming salamat din po kay Chairman Bautista kahit sinasabi nya na puede ang TAPAT sa 2019. Yun lang po ay sapat na patunay na naniniwala kayo sa sinusulung ng AES Watch at gawang pinoy ni Mr. Villasanta. Chairman, kayo po ay may pusong TAPAT na Pinoy. God Bless po!