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.