CABUYAO, Laguna: Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Automated Election System (JCOC-AES), on Friday warned anew the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to address the glitches in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to ensure the integrity and credibility of the 2016 presidential polls.
“I have already warned Comelec time and again that I will never let go of the issue of ‘digital lines’ causing inaccuracies in the count,” Pimentel said during a walk through inspection, together with Comelec officials and members of the media, of the ongoing diagnostics, refurbishment and repair of the 82,000 PCOS machines at a Comelec warehouse here.
“But so far, the bad news is they don’t know what is causing the digital lines,” he stressed, adding that even Smartmatic, the counting machines supplier, could not give a valid explanation.
The digital lines issue is currently the subject of a JCOC-AES hearing. Said lines appear on the ballot and cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be read by the PCOS machines.
It is alleged that the digital lines were used in the “vote padding and vote shaving operations” in the past elections to favor some candidates.
Pimentel said that they have summoned the Comelec technicians studying the issue to testify in their next hearing.
“We need to know everything. We will ask them about their findings,” he added.
At the same time, Pimentel called for greater transparency in the ongoing diagnostic and repair of the PCOS machines, saying that it should not only be limited to Comelec and Smartmatic technicians but also to other Filipino technical experts.
The whole operation is being manned by 100 Smartmatic technicians and 25 Comelec personnel, who were tasked to ensure the quality of work on the PCOS machines.
But Pimentel said that he has some reservations on the set up because it could not be ascertained if the Comelec supervisors are technically superior to the Smartmatic technicians.
He also suggested that Smartmatic should also be required to provide their own supervisors to assure the quality of work of their technicians, side by side with the Comelec supervisors.
For his part, Comelec Acting Chairman Christian Robert Lim gave his assurance that the Comelec supervisors all came from the poll body’s Information and Technical Department and have undergone proper training.
“We support the call of the Senator for greater transparency. We can accommodate if there are other requests, including (the opening of the ongoing work to other experts) Filipino technicians,” Lim added.
On the digital lines issue, Lim said that its determination “is not covered by the contract with Smartmatic” but the Comelec, on its own, is doing the necessary tests to determine the cause of the glitch.
“I understand that it is also part of the diagnostics. A blank ballot is inserted, the diagnostic tools will determine if there are lines and then will be quarantined,” Lim said.
Lim said that they expect to finish the job by June or at the most by August, which, he claimed, was within the Comelec’s preparation timeline.
The diagnostics and repair of the 82,000 PCOS machines is part of the P240 million contract that former Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes signed before he retired last February 2.
The job include major repairs and replacement of parts. Smartmatic will also replace the machines that are beyond repair, limited to 4 percent of the total inventory of 82,000 machines.