As it did in 2010 and 2013, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) once again fails to provide for rules on the authentication of electronically transmitted election results by the Boards of Canvassers (BOCs) at all levels.
The BOCs at each level of canvassing are mandated by law to determine the authenticity and due execution of each electronically transmitted election results they receive. These results are the election returns from the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and certificate of canvass from the BOCs in the canvassing hierarchy.
Nothing in Comelec Resolution No. 10083 or the General Instructions for Boards of Canvassers provides for rules implementing Section 30 of Republic Act No. 8436 as amended by Republic Act. No. 9369 or the Automated Election Law (RA8436 as amended) which provides:
“Sec. 30. Authentication of Electronically Transmitted Election Results. – The manner of determining the authenticity and due execution of the certificates shall conform with the provisions of Republic Act No. 7166 as may be supplement (sic) or modified by the provision of this Act, where applicable, by appropriate authentication and certification procedures for electronic signatures as provided in Republic Act No. 8792 as well as the rules promulgated by the Supreme Court pursuant thereto.”
To ensure that election results electronically transmitted are authentic, the law mandates that such election results must be digitally signed.
With respect to the digital signing of election returns, RA8436 as amended provides that “The election returns transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as the basis for the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of a candidate.”
With respect to the signing of certificates of canvass, RA8436 as amended provides that “the certificates of canvass transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as the basis for the proclamation of a winning candidate.”
Groups like AESWatch assert that digital signing was not implemented in the automated election system (AES) used in 2010 and 2013, and it is not implemented in the AES that will be used in the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections.
The Comelec asserts otherwise.
Comelec Resolution No. 10057 or the General Instructions for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) provides for a process of digital signing by BEI members. Each BEI member is provided with an iButton Key and three PINs or Personal Identification Numbers. One of the three PINs, in combination with the iButton Key, is intended for digitally signing the election returns. But Comelec and its supplier, Smartmatic, did not provide a process that would bind the identity of all BEI members with their respectiveiButton Key + PIN for digital signing. How can the BOC electronically verify the identity of the signer if said identity of the signer is not bound with the iButton Key + PIN for digital signing used to affix the digital signature (as Comelec asserts it to be) in the electronically transmitted election return?
On the other hand, nothing in Comelec Resolution No. 10083 provides for the digital signing of the certificate of canvass (COC) by members of the BOC. If there is no digital signature on the electronically transmitted COC, then the receiving BOC will not be able to determine its authenticity and due execution.
So, absent rules on the authentication of electronically transmitted election results, what procedures can the BOCs use in determining the authenticity and due execution of the election results they receive? Should the BOCs resort to authenticating printed copies of the election results? This option defeats the purpose for which RA8436 as amended was promulgated. The BOCs cannot use the printed copies of certificates of canvass for the purpose of canvassing of election results and proclamation of winning candidates precisely because the printed copies cannot be considered as bearing the official results.
Automatic authentication of election results does not come with automating the counting of votes and consolidation of election results.
Had the Comelec and Smartmatic implemented digital signing as known in the information technology industry, there would have been a way to electronically determine the authenticity and due execution of election results. There would also have been a way to independently verify the identity of the signer and check the integrity of the election returns and the certificates of canvass at all canvassing levels.
Let’s face IT. If the electronically transmitted election results are not digitally signed, election results cannot be electronically authenticated. If the electronically transmitted certificates of canvass cannot be authenticated, the respective BOCs cannot proclaim the election winners.
Without the proclamation of election winners, the country will have vacancies in all elective posts.