A new “glitch” on some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2010 presidential and the 2013 mid-term elections were discovered by Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which could either give vote to a candidate or render a ballot invalid due to over voting.
The discovery was made during the random manual audit (RMA) done by technical evaluation committee of the DOST wherein it was found that several PCOS machines were found generating “black markings” on the ballots being fed to the machines.
Engineer Dennis Villorente, was the one who reported the PCOS machine glitch during hearing of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and peoples participation chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.
The hearing was called by Pimentel to discuss various issues regarding the 2013 midterm elections including the random manual audit.
It was learned that of the 212 machines that underwent RMA 11 machines were found generating the so-called black markings on the ballots fed through the said PCSO machines.
Of the eleven machines, seven machines were found to have generating the black markings right inside the ovals in the ballots.
The oval-shape in the ballot located next to the name of a candidate is what voters have to shade to indicate their choice.
On the other hand four of the machines were found generating black lines outside the ovals meaning it doesn’t have any effect on the ballot.
Pimentel, in an interview after the hearing, expressed concern over the latest anomaly on the PCOS machines which the Commission on Election brought for P1.8 billion from Smartmatic.
The senators said that the recent discovery prompt the Comelec to start studying if it would still use the PCOS machines in the 2016 presidential election.
“We will be electing our president and vice president in 2016 and there’s a possibility for us to have an accidental winner because of the defective PCOS machines,” he said in an interview after the hearing.
The recent discovery, he added, has further strengthen his belief that the country should get rid of the Smartmatic PCOS machines and look for more reliable technology.
He however made it clear that the decision in choosing the technology or system that will be used by the country in 2016 lies on the Comelec and it is best to allow the poll body to handle the situation.
Meanwhile Maria Corazon Akol of the automated election system (AES) Watch admitted that the latest PCOS machine anomaly is new to them and if it wasn’t for the senate panel hearing, they would not have knew about it.
She added that the although there is no indication yet that the said glitch has major effect on the ballot reading, it further raises the need for more transparency on the part of the Comelec.
According to Akol their group even before the mid-term election has very vocal on its demand for the Comelec to allow a source code review and bring back the digital signature to further protect the election against possible manipulation.
Even former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman criticized the Comelec on its decision to remove several safeguards intended to protect the PCOS machines and other important equipment from possible manipulation thus making the system vulnerable.
Akol insisted that Comelec should junk the PCSO because there is no transparency and there is no assurance if the machines really count the votes casted by the voters.
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes in a separate interview said that they would look into the report of the DOST and determine if there are other machines that possess similar glitches.
But based on his initial information, Brillantes said that the glitches may be random caused by defective machines spare parts.
He added that if the glitch was caused by damaged parts, the Comelec can just replace it but if bug is within the PCOS itself then they have to junk the machines. Jefferson Antiporda