THE pro-Smartmatic Comelec officials, congressmen, top officials of a citizen’s arm, and an election lawyer, have run out of reasons to justify the use of the failed PCOS machines for the 2016 elections. All their arguments against the adoption of the hybrid system, now re-named PATaS, or Precinct Automated Tallying System, (manual voting and precinct-counting; electronic transmission of results and automated canvassing) have been responded to satisfactorily by the advocates of transparent and credible elections.Yes, this is the same system that used to be called TCrES, or Transparent and Credible Election System. By popular clamor, it has been given a new name – PATaS – pun completely intended.
Let’s review what the pro-Smartmatic people used to say.
PCOS removes the factor of human intervention.RESPONSE: What’s wrong with human intervention? Why are they demonizing it? The candidates are human; the voters are human; the election administrators are human. I’m pretty sure those pro-Smartmatic people know that the PCOS machines were programmed by humans.What’s wrong is when some human, or machine, tampers with the results of elections. And what can make tampering easier? A machine, of course!
Teachers don’t want to go back to manual counting because they want to go home early. RESPONSE: This is certainly a reasonable attitude. Teachers already work the whole day during elections. If they also have to count the votes manually in the evening, it would really be taxing them too much. To be fair to those who volunteer for the counting,their allowances should be doubled, or even tripled. Budgeting for this should not be a problem as there would be a large amount of savings accruing the Comelec by not using PCOS. But a more effective solution would be to deputize a separate team for the manual counting. Sources of personnel can be other government offices, citizens’ arms like Namfrel and PPCRV, and other NGOs. If Namfrel was able to assemble 500,000 volunteers in 1986 and several hundred thousands in the other elections, surely, Comelec, especially with a budget for personnel, can assemble more.
The teachers (Board of Election Inspectors), especially when they are already tired, do not read and count the votes accurately. RESPONSE: Same solution as in Item 2 above, i.e., organize separate teams for the manual counting. But PATaS has an added feature that responds to this question very well. Before reading the contents of a ballot, a snapshot of the ballot would be taken using the laptop’s camera. The image will then be projected to the big screen so all voters would see what’s being read.
Tension builds up – which can lead to violence – because of the long precinct-counting process. Several days before Election Day, Comelec already knows where the “hot spots” are. It can assign additional personnel, from the PNP, Army, Navy, and Air Force, to secure those cities/municipalities/precincts.
Manual precinct-counting is not allowed by the election automation law, R.A. 9369.RESPONSE: This is not true. The law says, “… the Commission on Elections … is hereby authorized to use an automated election system … for the process of voting, counting of votes and canvassing/consolidation and transmittal of results of electoral exercises”. Notice that the word used is “authorized,” not “mandated”.
PATaS is an untried system and therefore to use it would violate the law. RESPONSE: This is not true. There’s nothing new in manual counting and automated canvassing. It’s used in many parts of the world – in Germany, Australia, Ireland, etc..The laptop-projector combination is only an added feature.
Going back to manual precinct-counting means the return of dagdag-bawas. RESPONSE: Every time I hear somebody say this, only one thought comes to my mind – this person is either ignorant of the election process, or he/she is trying to deceive his/her listeners. Dagdag-bawas happens in manual canvassing because that used to take 25 to 40 days. More than enough time to tamper with the results. But all automated election systems– whether PCOS, DRE, PATaS – automate the canvassing using off-the-shelf PC’s, laptops, servers. This problem has therefore been eliminated. Except when the system controls are weak, as in Smartmatic’s system, then automated dagdag-bawas becomes possible.
While the arguments against PATaS have all been satisfactorily responded to, there are however still many unanswered, unresolved problems with Smartmatic’sPCOS system. Let me cite a few:
PCOS counting is not transparent. Unfortunately, there is no solution to this problem because any system that automates precinct-counting will naturally lose transparency. Even with a source code review, it is still difficult to ensure that all units will carry untampered and bug-free software.
How can losing candidates protest when nobody saw how the Election Returns were arrived at?
How come all mock elections conducted by Smartmatic and the Random Manual Audits of 2010 and 2013 failed to show results that met the 99.995% required accuracy rate?
The weak controls in Smartmatic’s Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) allowed inconsistencies in the results.
What happened to the CF cards of the PCOS units that failed to transmit the results successfully?
Why were there results being received by the Municipal Board of Canvassers from precincts which have not yet closed the voting?
It’s two elections overdue. Let’s junk PCOS now. Or suffer another election with many questionable results.