By Ritchie A. Horario
Former sen. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, Jr on Tuesday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into reports that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the May 13 polls are vulnerable to internal tampering.
“That is the issue that should be answered by Comelec,” Magsaysay told The Manila Times in an interview after his press conference at The Fort in Taguig City. He said the poll body should do something to erase doubts on the credibility of the results of the elections.
Former Comelec commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman earlier said that internal tampering is the biggest threat to the credibility of the nearing electoral exercise.
According to Lagman, any person who has the passwords to the machines can alter the result of the voting. He called on the Comelec to be on alert for unscrupulous people with access to the passwords of the system because they can easily change the results of the elections.
Magsaysay called on the watchers of various political parties, the public and the media to be vigilant in guarding the PCOS machines and the entire electoral process.
He however expressed belief that the coming elections will not be tainted by widespread cheating.
“Yung (The) PCOS machines were tested during the 2010 elections and we all know that the result is very fast and there was no massive cheating,” he said.
He remains hopeful that Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. and the other poll commissioners will ensure the orderly, honest and clean elections in May 13.
“They are not mediocre. These are lawyers who are tested by their practice of their legal profession specially the elections laws. They underwent the process of transparency and competence,” Magsaysay said.
Former senator Richard Gordon, who is again seeking a senate seat, on Tuesday admitted that he is worried about the election process.
He pointed out that the Comelec’s failure to do its duties, it’s inability to be transparent, and violations of the Automated Election Law will snatch the people of their right to vote.
“You better watch out, you better not cry when you lose the elections or when you’re robbed off your votes,” Gordon said.
The former lawmaker asked the Supreme Court to order the Comelec to open the source code for review.
However, Brillantes had said that the review of the source code will be done after the elections because there is no more time to allow political parties and other interested groups to check the source code.
Gordon also expressed concern on the source code that was finally released by Dominion, the vendor of the systems used in PCOS machines, saying it was not “read and clarified properly.”
Brillantes said that Gordon’s petition is already moot because the poll body will present the source code to political parties today.
Militant women’s group Gabriela party-list on Tuesday also questioned the integrity of Monday’s election amid reports of PCOS [Precinct Count Optical Scan] machine irregularities.
“The irregularities monitored during the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) and the lack of a source code review by local groups before the actual conduct of the elections puts the credibility of Monday’s elections under a cloud of doubt. Dominion’s consent to finally release the source code came too late and does little to appease voters’ and watchdogs’ apprehension,” Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list said in a statement.
“Count accuracy as well as questions on the reliability of data transmission remain in question,” she added.
The group called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to sufficiently prepare for a worst-case scenario including ensuring preparedness for a manual count.
The women’s group noted several reported irregularities during the FTS in various areas.
According to election watchdog KontraDaya, there were technical glitches of the PCOS testing at the Kabacan Elementary School in Davao province.
The PCOS count lacked 1 vote each for senator and councilor. At the Datu Piang Elementary School, the serial numbers of the PCOS machine and its battery did not match.
A PCOS machine at the Buhangin Central Elementary School also failed to function and forced the board of election inspectors to consider the manual counting of votes. A PCOS machine also accepted wrongly shaded ballots.
Kontra Daya also reported that the memory card diagnostic in most precincts failed.
“Voter vigilance is imperative. Discredited and unreliable election results will disenfranchise women and voters from the poor and marginalized sections of our society that Gabriela Women’s Party currently represents and seeks to further represent inside and outside of Congress. More than fast elections, we need credible elections,” Ilagan noted.
With a report from Kristyn Nika M. Lazo and Neil A. Alcober