THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has assured the country’s estimated 54 million registered voters of the integrity and credibility of the new vote counting machines (VCMs) amid allegations that it is priming the machines for massive cheating to ensure the victory of administration candidates in the 2016 polls.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Sunday assured critics that the new VCMs, which it formerly called Optical Mark Readers (OMRs), are a safer and much better version of the old Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machines that were used in the 2011 and 2013 elections.
Jimenez explained that while the VCM and PCOS were basically the same, also both supplied by technology provider Smartmatic Corp., the former, if compared to a cellphone, is an IPhone 6, while the PCOS is an IPhone 5.
“The screen of the PCOS is black and white while the VCM has a wider screen, it’s bigger than a tablet and it’s full color, which means that there [is]a lot of information going on there. You can actually scroll up and down on the display,” he said.
Another accessibility feature of the VCM, Jimenez added, is an audio playback, wherein the voter, using a headset, with the press of a finger can order the machine to read the names of candidates whom he or she has voted for.
But more than the accessibility features, he said, are the security features of the machines to ensure that every vote cast is counted correctly.
The security components, according to Jimenez, are the ultra violet lights, the source code, the digital signatures and the voter verified paper audit trail (VPAT).
He said the ultra violet light reads the invisible marking on the official ballot, without which the machine would automatically reject the ballot because it is fake, while the source code is basically an independent auditor to protect the machine from possible malware designed to manipulate results of elections.
The digital signature would determine the specific VCM that sends particular election results data to the canvassing center.
According to Jimenez, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the Comelec is compliant with the law as far as digital signature is concerned but the poll body is still working out the inclusion of signatures of the three members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) for added validation.
As for the VPAT, he said, the VCM has verification option that would show the candidates the voter has chosen, which he or she can either reject or accept without the need for issuance of a paper trail or receipt even as the machine has also the capability to do so.
“Absolutely, each vote cast would be counted correctly,” Jimenez added.
He said the poll body would put the VCM machines to public scrutiny early next year.
The multi-sectoral election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition has been demanding the return of the four security features, saying their deactivation violated the country’s election law and rendered the last two elections “illegal” and in order to prevent a repeat of the allegedly widespread election fraud in 2010 and 2013.
The group earlier submitted a three-page demand letter to Chairman Andres Bautista asking him to order the return of the security features stipulated, which, it pointed out, are required by Republic Act 939.