The most awaited milestone after the May 9, 2016 national and local elections (NLEs) is the submission of the Comelec’s Advisory Council (CAC) report to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) regarding the implementation of the automated election system (AES). The AES Law or Republic Act (RA) 9369 the mandates that the CAC shall be the Comelec’s technical arm and shall provide advice and assistance in the review of the systems planning, inception, development, testing, operationalization, and evaluation in the different AES implementation stages (Section 9).
The AES Law stipulates that the JCOC is “created composed of seven members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives, four of whom shall come from the majority and three from the minority, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of this Act. A written report to the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be submitted by the Advisory Council within six months (i.e., not later than November 9, 2016) from the date of election…(Section 33).” During the 16th Congress, Sen. Koko Pimentel was the Senate Chairman. For the 17th Congress, Sen. Leila de Lima is the Senate Chairman as of October 12, 2016 and her designation may be viewed at http://senate.gov.ph/committee/adhocctte_list.pdf.
Further, RA 9369 specifies that “the oversight committee shall conduct a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the performance of the different AES technologies implemented and shall make appropriate recommendations to Congress, in session assembled,” including “an evaluation of their accuracy through a comparison of a random sample of the AES election results with a manual tabulation, and the conduct of similar tests.” Hopefully, the AES Watch will see CAC’s report indicating the manual tabulation of certain precincts vis PCOS or VCM counts next month.
So far, AES Watch has already noted some of the salient points of the past CAC reports, to wit:
• CAC report dated June 2010. The CAC recommended that “the Comelec not exercise the option to purchase the AES. The AES encountered too many problems that need to be resolved before this particular system can be used again…For the May 2013 elections, the Comelec does not need to use the same PCOS machines…” In short, the Comelec ignored this 2010 CAC Report!
The CAC concluded in their 2010 report that “the preparation time was too short for a project of this magnitude and complexity and gave the Comelec very little room to work with. Smartmatic/TIM committed numerous mistakes throughout the process, some of which nearly derailed the entire automation exercise. The Comelec also made questionable decisions that placed the integrity of the AES in jeopardy. There were certainly periods when it appeared the doomsayers (i.e., referring to AES Watch et al.) were right.”
• CAC report dated January 2014. The CAC recommended to Comelec the use of the proper digital signatures for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and the Board of Canvassers (BOCs) for the 2016 NLEs and succeeding elections using the available Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI). Such recommendation is also in compliance with Section 7 of RA 9369 which states that “all electronic transmission by and among the AES and its related components shall utilize secure communication channels as recommended by the Advisory Council, to ensure authentication and integrity of transmission.” It should be noted that Smartmatic, through Comelec, didn’t follow the CAC’s recommendation. Instead, they used the machine digital signatures as also used in 2010 and 2013 NLEs. The lead agency of the CAC then was the former Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). In the 2013 NLEs, the ICTO prodded Comelec to use the newly established PNPKI then; but just the same, Comelec just adopted whatever Smartmatic advised them to use. That goes to say that the technical arm of Comelec is not the CAC but actually the Smartmatic! Again, Comelec rejected the 2013 CAC Report!
For the deliberations during the JCOC hearings presided then by Sen. Koko Pimentel on August 15, 2015 and September 17, 2015, you may read the details in “Comelec will not comply with e-Commerce Law in 2016 elections” at http://www.manilatimes.net/comelec-will-not-comply-with-e-commerce-law-in-2016-elections-2/247919/.
Hence, what do we expect from the CAC report on or before November 9, 2016, the date exactly six months after the 2016 NLEs? The AES Watch predicts that CAC shall stress again that Comelec should be compliant with all the provisions of the AES Law. With respect to the pending cases lodged by AES Watch in the Ombudsman in 2010 and 2013 for the non-compliance of Comelec with AES Law, they sincerely hope that these cases be opened and decided during the administration of President Duterte. Amen!
Let’s face it! If Comelec paid no mind to the 2010 and 2013 CAC reports, will they do the same for the 2016 CAC report? Will JCOC convene its first hearing next month to discuss the 2016 CAC report and the Comelec preparations for the 2019 elections even though Sen. De Lima is currently facing controversy concerning her involvement with illegal drugs?