Options for redesigned Automated Election System


3rd of Three Parts

Possible options for a redesigned Automated Election System (AES), at no cost to the government, were discussed in my previous articles. These election systems are readily available anytime, highly secured, accurate and fully redundant.

Votes transmission, consolidation, and canvassing can be done real-time.

The Philippine Constitution allows the use of such election system. Let us analyze the pertinent provisions of the Constitution.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), under Section 4 of Article IX of the 1987 Constitution, “may, during the election period, supervise or regulate the enjoyment or utilization of all franchises or permits for the operation of transportation and other public utilities, media of communication or information, all grants, special privileges, or concessions granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation or its subsidiary.”

Clearly, the lottery, is under the management of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Offices (PCSO). Hence, the Comelec may take hold of the lottery system during an election period and utilize it. Why has the poll body not entertained this idea, opting instead to spend billions of pesos every election? Your answer is as good as mine.

It is rather obvious that Smartmatic, with the concurrence of Comelec, had monopolized our elections. Section 19 of the Constitution directs that “the State shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires.”

Public interest now requires that Smartmatic’s monopoly of our elections be stopped. Will the Comelec follow our Constitution?

Having set out the legality of using the lotto machines, let us now focus on the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that are privately owned by various banks.

Section 12, Article XIV of the Constitution stipulates that “the State shall regulate the transfer and promote the adaptation of technology from all sources for the national benefit. It shall encourage the widest participation of private groups, local governments and community-based organizations in the generation and utilization of science and technology.”

This proviso centers on the adaptation of technology from all sources – including private groups. Thus, the private groups of Bancnet and Megalink fall within this realm. Further, the operations of Bancnet and Megalink are supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), putting it within the ambit of the above-discussed Section 4 of Article IX. If needed, these groups can be tapped and empowered by the Comelec to handle the election process.
The proposed systems meet the minimum system capabilities as set by the law.

Section 6 of Republic Act No. 8436, popularly know as the Automated Election Law, as amended by Republic Act No. 9369, provides for the minimum system capabilities of the AES. To wit –

(a) Adequate security against unauthorized access: (b) Accuracy in recording and reading of votes as well as in the tabulation, consolidation/canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results; (c) Error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device; (d) System integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording and counting process; (e) Provision for voter verified paper audit trail; (f) System auditability which provides supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results;

(g) An election management system for preparing ballots and programs for use in the casting and counting of votes and to consolidate, report and display election result in the shortest time possible; (h) Accessibility to illiterates and disabled voters; (i) Vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite; (j) Accurate ballot counters;

(k) Data retention provision; (l) Provide for the safekeeping, storing and archiving of physical or paper resource used in the election process; (m) Utilize or generate official ballots as herein defined; (n) Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice; and (o) Configure access control for sensitive system data and function.

Plain reading of the text readily reveals that both of the proposed “no cost” AES comply with the minimum system capabilities as set forth by the Automated Election Law. Both systems are highly secured against unauthorized success, have one hundred percent accuracy rate, have error-recovery features, with high system integrity, can issue transaction receipts, and provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice. All the other requirements are operational and management concerns which can all be fully addressed.

The subsequent Section 7 of the said law mandates that “all electronic transmissions 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.”

Well, as demonstrated by the proposed systems and experienced by the public, transmissions done by the lotto machines and the ATMs are secured.

How about that contentious Section 12 of R.A. No. 8436, as amended, which the Comelec has been harping on to defend its choice of Smartmatic? Said Section 12 states in part that “the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.”

As discussed in my previous articles, the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) were freshly manufactured in China and had never been used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad. Same thing with the other Smartmatic supplied applications systems – they are all designed solely for the Philippines and had never been used in a prior electoral exercise.

Why would they change the “scripts” (both in 2010 and in 2016) if it had been used already in a prior election? Logic tells us that Smartmatic’s system had not even been fully tested, otherwise that “script” thing would have not occurred.

Considering that Section 12 had been violated time and again, there is no reason why it cannot be amended to “legalize” alternative election systems. The pertinent portion of Section 12 of R.A. No. 8436 can be amended to read as follows “the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully tested in extensive simulated electoral exercises.”

We asked for change. We must all work for change. The incoming Duterte administration must have the political will to stop Smartmatic from monopolizing our elections and ensure that the people’s money are not wasted on some flawed foreign technology. We, the Filipinos, could do it better.

We dare challenge our dear Commissioners to act now and stop wasting taxpayer’s money on unconscionable foreign election contracts. We must not forget that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

Al S. Vitangcol III is a lawyer, a registered engineer, and the Philippines’ first EC-Council certified Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator. He holds a masteral degree in Computer Science and was designated head of the Joint IT Forensic Team that investigated the 60 PCOS machines that were found in a house in Antipolo City during the 2010 national and local elections. He served as a resource person both in the Committee on Suffrage hearings at the House of Representatives and at the 2010 Joint Presidential and Vice-Presidential Canvassing.

Mr. Vitangcol had been writing articles about automated elections. He recently trained several political groups in order to help them prevent electoral fraud during the 2016 National and Local Elections.


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  1. Ban forever , the Smartmatic in our country. We do by our Filipino Experts, IT professionals, our Software Programmers. Sa ating mamayan pa mapupunta ang ibabayad ninyo sa mga foreigners na kakutsaba ng gobyernong dilawan. Patronize our own company…and Filipino people.

  2. My new design of a fast voting system is much better than any other existing system. It is an automated manual system that automatically eliminate writing the candidate’s name and records votes for any recounting purposes. It is secret during voting and very transparent during the counting of votes. The total of votes can be known immediately, just like scoring a basketball game. Please look at my design at my Timeline/Facebook. Thanks
    Vir Gaerlan on Facebook.

  3. A post audit of the Smartmatic AES system focused on one aspect like the unauthorized change of a script misses the whole point which will become sadly a futile exercise. A historical narrative of the points of failure of this AES system in the past elections indicate flagrant violations or lack of internal controls in the whole AES ecosystem starting from the lack of independence of the Comelec leadership and IT staff and the Smartmatic management and staff – and between themselves. It appears that from the start the Comelec leadership has undue influence on the vendor which may have already compromised the integrity of the system results.
    The issue of intellectual property of the source code is not relevant as any client before it buys a software has to ensure that the system works as intended, thus a system validation process of the whole ecosystem is normally performed. This is to ensure that it meets client requirements. Show stoppers are flagged by users as well as IT personnel and resolved before implementation. In this validation process, all critical users that touched the system is part of the validation team which includes the IT administration staff. Any show stopper normally would have a work around by the vendor and this is again validated to ensure that it does not impact the accuracy and integrity of the system. And the script change should have been caught at this stage of the validation process and not when the system has been formally approved for production.
    The issue of an IT admin person from Smartmatic to be able to change a script in a production system is indicates a can of worms. In a normal environment, only the client’s IT admin person and his alternate is allowed access and this access has to be approved by layers of Comelec management staff and not the vendor.
    Due to the many other significant issues that surfaced in the past and some brought forward in this election indicate a likelihood of intentional breaches.
    Therefore, a post audit of the whole AES ecosystem is in order to ensure this election is not rigged.