• Introducing … ‘Let’s face IT!’

    7

    It’s about time!

    It truly is about time that the public gets to read the truth about the issues concerning the automation of Philippine elections. Since 2009, some opinion writers who know very little about election systems, and even less about Information Technology (IT), have been feeding the voting public with falsities and half-truths. Equally guilty are some officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), officials of an election-related NGO, and some senators and congressmen. In fact, there are so many of them that their opinions drown out the voices of the few who understand both elections systems and IT.

    But what is so sad is the belief of many that a lobby group has been orchestrating the spread of wrong information, most possibly, using the usual grease money. According to those in the know, there are enough clues that point to this: half-a-dozen columnists writing about the same topic within a span of three days, using the same exact words, which could only have been possible if all of them based their articles from the same write-up, which presumably would have come from the said lobby group; congressmen ignoring very clear and very logical analyses of the wrong information being spread around; congressional hearings where the vendor would have all the time they needed to present their side, usually wasting time by bringing up irrelevant issues, thus leaving very little time, if any, for the invited IT practitioners to present their objections; Comelec officials who, instead of listening to the reasonable comments and objections from knowledgeable IT professionals, would accuse them of being election saboteurs; Comelec officials ignoring the recommendations of their Advisory Council.

    All these and more cannot be interpreted as pure coincidence. Much too thick. However, their aggressive campaign has been so effective that even justices of the Supreme Court have favored them with several decisions. The result: two of the worst national elections the country has ever had. We were only fortunate that in 2010, like the 1998 win by President Estrada, it was a landslide victory that no one can question.

    But thanks to the offer of The Manila Times, IT practitioners who are familiar with election processes will now be able to air their views, on a regular basis. LitoAveria, Nelson Celis, and this writer will share this weekly column on an alternating basis. It is hoped that through their articles, misconceptions and myths surrounding election automation will be explained and corrected. Comments from the readers will of course be most welcome.

    The credentials of the writers follow:

    Lito Averia is president of the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team. He is a very active volunteer member of Namfrel’s Systems Group, a member of the Supreme Court’s Subcommittee on e-Commerce, a member of the Comelec Advisory Council, Chairman of the Information Security Study Group of the National ICT Advisory Council, and a member of the ICT Workgroup of the National Competitiveness Council. He is a consultant in the fields of ICT, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and Information Security.

    An electronics engineer with 34 solid years of experience in IT and Management, Nelson Celis was awarded by the Institute of Electronics and Communications Engineers of the Philippines as the Most Outstanding Electronics Engineer in 2012. He graduated with a degree in BSECE at Don Bosco Technical College and finished his MBA and DBA at the De La Salle University. He served the banking sector for 10 years as Chief Information Officer and was responsible for making the Philippines Y2K bug-free when he was the president of the Philippine Computer Society and Commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Y2K Compliance in 1999. He is presently the spokesperson of AES Watch (Automated Election System Watch), which is composed of almost 50 cause-oriented organizations.

    Gus Lagman is a Certified Computing Professional (CCP), having been awarded the designation (after sitting for an exam) by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals which is based in Des Moines, Illinois. He was president of the Philippine Computer Society (four terms), the IT Association of the Philippines (four terms), the IT Foundation of the Philippines (umbrella organization of a dozen computer associations), and the South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (which federates some 15 computer societies of countries from New Zealand all the way to India). As a Namfrel volunteer and head of its Systems Committee, Gus managed the automated implementation of its parallel counts from 1984 to 2007 (ten national elections). He was a member of the first Comelec Advisory Council (1997-98). From May 2011 to March 2012, he was one of seven Commissioners of the Comelec.

    While a majority of the articles will be election-related, a few, when situations call for it, might be on IT projects of other government agencies.

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    7 Comments

    1. William de Lara on

      Hi Gus,
      I am an old style database programmer but not an expert at all. However, I observed that our city has a blending of an old system with a new system, and it seems to work very week. We have cubicles that have only a manual system where we insert a voting card like an old style IBM card into a folder. Then we read each page of the folder and use a stylus to punch a hole next to a candidate’s name. When we are done, we insert the card into a dedicated computer card reader. The card checks for any errors like voting for both candidates and spits it out with a red light. If the light is green, the card is okay and you can place it in the ballot. The ballot is read by high speed card readers in central locations. But the beautiful part is that each precinct has a reading of the results of that precinct in the dedicated card reader. The results are saved and transmitted and is available for quick-count and a counter- check on the centralized reading. Finally, the actual ballots are preserved in case of major discrepancies. Furthermore, the system is cheap. The folder is just like a binder where you insert new pages for each election. The IBM cards are programmed to conform to the binder punch holes. Only two computers are used for each precinct, and these are old dedicated msdos computers that can read and analyse a card input. It only takes a few seconds for it to analyze an input. Maybe we should learn from others that state-of-the-art systems are not necessarily the best.
      Bill

    2. The comment of DaMan is correct. ICCP is indeed in Des Plaines, Illinois and not in Des Moines, Iowa. It was my mistake. My apologies to the readers and Manila Times. I probably confused one from the other, not having been to either place. I sat for the exam very long ago at the College of Engineering, UP Diliman, together with five other IT guys. The whole day exam was administered by the late Prof. Joe de Castro.

      I’m glad I decided to check out the website, albeit more than two weeks after the time my article was published; otherwise, I would not have been able to issue this erratum. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank DaMan for his comment

      • It takes a big man to admit a mistake instead of passing the blame or weaseling your way out. To make the admission in public takes an even bigger man.

        Your credibility, Gus Lagman, has not only been maintained, it has also increased with your clarification. You are a good man.

        I am also happy to know that Manila Times is still the credible and trustworthy newspaper that it has always been.

    3. Anima A. Agrava on

      Thank you, former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, for carrying on the struggle to make our elections honest and the true voice of the people.
      You and the AES and all the patriotic Filipinos who want our Republican democracy survive must not be defeated by the PCOS machines and the partisan and corrupt members of the Comelec led by Chairman Brillantes.
      God bless you and The Manila Times.

    4. “Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals which is based in Des Moines, Illinois.”

      Really Manila Times? Careful…you are citing the credentials of a very credible person like Gus. Des Moines, Illinois doesn’t exist!

      Des Moines is in Iowa. Des Plaines is in Illinois, and that’s where ICCP is based.

    5. I will shared it in my FB and Twitter account once your article is educational and interesting. Thanks.