MOVE ALLAYS FEARS OF DIRTY POLLS

Comelec restores PCOS safety features

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THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) will reactivate three of the four security features of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines that were deactivated during the 2010 and 2013 elections.

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“All those features are there but as to whether we will enable the features, chances are [we will reactivate]at least three out of four,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said on Tuesday.

The four security features are the ballot verification or ultra violet detectors, the source code review, the digital signature and the voter verified paper audit trail.

They are mandated by Republic Act (RA) 939 or the Automated Elections Law and were part and parcel of a contract that Comelec awarded to controversial technology provider Smartmatic Corp. for the supply of 82,000 PCOS machines that were used during the 2010 and 2013 polls.

Bautista said the Comelec was at fault for the much criticized source code review in 2013, which happened a week before the polls, but noted that under the commission at present, the basic source code review was opened seven months before the 2016 polls.

The source code is basically an independent auditor to ensure that the system is running free from possible malicious lines or malware designed to manipulate the results of elections.

As to the digital signature, Bautista said that they were looking to introduce human signatures, “not just one but three signatures of BEIs [Board of Election Inspectors]” even as he cited a Supreme Court ruling that a machine signature will do.

He explained that of the four security features, only the verified paper audit trail has an issue even as he pointed out that the High Court in Capalla vs. Comelec case has upheld the poll body on the matter.

Bautista said they would also consult election stakeholders on the pros and cons of reactivating the safety features of the counting machines.

“The big pro is transparency which we all like. But there are issues on time and motion, there are issues on vote-buying, there are issues on the machine’s consistency in reading the votes depending on the level of shading and potential issues on credibility,” he added.
“We will explain [all of]that once we showcase the machine,” Bautista said.

The multi-sectoral election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition (RPC) has been demanding the return of the four features, saying their deactivation violated the country’s election law that rendered the last two polls “illegal” and to prevent a repeat of the alleged widespread election fraud in 2010 and 2013.

The RPC spokesman, former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, warned that unless the security features were reinstalled, the 2016 elections would be a repeat of the 2010 and 2016 polls that were characterized by massive cheating.

Former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco, a member of the RPC, said the Comelec and Smartmatic should return what they took away from the PCOS voting machines because it is the only way that the 2016 elections can be called honest and credible.

The group earlier submitted a three-page demand letter to Bautista asking him to order the return of the security features stipulated in RA 939.

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