PATaS dapat ang laban

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With the way things are shaping up, the country will once again use the PCOS – the current stock or new ones – for the elections in 2016.

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Up for grabs in the last week of June, 2015 are three bids:

• The supply of 23,000 units of new PCOS machines with an approved budget for contract of over P2.5 billion.

• The supply of 70,977 units new PCOS machines with an approved budget for contract of over P7.867 billion.

• “Refurbishment” of 81,896 units of PCOS machines used in the last two elections.

The bids include other items such as ballots/ballot printing services, ballot boxes, consumables, and technical support.

The bid for 23,000 new PCOS units is supposed to augment the 81,896 units of PCOS machines used in the last two elections assuming that all units are brought up to operating condition through the bid that covers the repair and/or refurbishing of the 81,896 units, bringing the total to 104,869 units for use in the 2016 elections.

If the bid for the repair or refurbishing of the existing PCOS stock fails or if not all PCOS machines in the existing stock are brought up to operating condition, then the bid for 70,977 units of new PCOS machines will cover the difference.

Whatever the outcome is of the three bids, it sure looks like the PCOS will again be used.

Transparency of the vote count does not seem to matter even if the Election Automation Law, Republic Act No. 8436 as amended by Republic Act No. 9369, explicitly requires it.

Election observers have also pointed out that the PCOS machines used in the last two elections do not even meet the minimum system capabilities enumerated in the Election Automation Law. Question is: Will the new PCOS machines meet the requirement of transparency and minimum system capabilities set out in the law? Or, will the existing PCOS stock meet the transparency requirement and minimum system capabilities enumerated in the law after said PCOS stock has been repaired, refurbished, and/or upgraded?

Time is quickly running out. So, why not give PATaS or the Precinct Automated Tally System a chance? PATaS was designed and developed with transparency as core objective combined with a number of measures that ensure credibility and accuracy of the election results.

PATaS was designed and developed by IT professionals whose combined experience span over two hundred man-years. The same IT professionals have participated in setting up automated systems for the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Operation Quick Count in the last three decades.

Computing technology has evolved since the first quick count operations. From chalk boards and tally sheets used 30 years ago, today, technology offers the use of computers, LCD projectors, web cameras, and other tools so that vote counting and consolidation of election results can be easily and conveniently observed and monitored by election watchers and members of the public. Election results can be delivered at greater speeds through the Internet.

And, yes. The designers and developers of PATaS will make the source code available for any political party, interested group, and the general public to review. Source code review is a requirement of the Election Automation Law. It was reported that, for the 2013 elections, the source code was reviewed by some groups. The results of the review were never made available to the public since the groups that reviewed the source code were made to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The PATaS designers and developers would welcome feedback and suggestions from the public so that the same can be further improved.

The other problem that will be avoided with the use of PATaS is cases of ballot rejection which were observed in the last two elections. Some ballots were rejected by the PCOS for no apparent reason resulting in the disenfranchisement of some voters by the machine after they had been cleared by the Board of Election Inspectors.

The open competitive bidding to be conducted by the Commission on Elections before the end of June addresses only one piece of the entire automated election system – that of vote counting and the preparation of the precinct election returns. The public should not be misled into thinking that the PCOS machines automate the voting process. To be clear, voting in the last two elections was manual and it will be the same in 2016 if the PCOS is used. What the voters did was shade the ovals beside the names of candidates of their choice in the various election contests. Thereafter, the voters had their ballots scanned by the PCOS but never saw how the machine interpreted each ballot.

Let’s face IT! PATas dapat ang laban! PATaS ensures transparency of the vote count and, combined with technology measures, ensures credibility and accuracy of the election results.

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