THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has virtually awarded to the joint venture of Smartmatic-TIM the P2.503-billion contract to lease to the Comelec 23,000 units of precinct-based optical mark reader (OMR), which the Comelec will use in the 2016 presidential election to augment its 82,000 units of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines also supplied by Smartmatic. The PCOS machines were used in the 2016 and 2013 elections illegally.
We and other Filipinos concerned about the absence of transparency in the precinct-level electoral process because of the illegal use of the PCOS machines thought that the Comelec BAC decision to disqualify the Venezuelan company, was the beginning of the total termination of Smartmatic’s role in our elections. We were wrong.
The Comelec Commissioners’ en banc decision granted Smartmatic’s protest against its disqualification by Comelec’s Bidding and Awards Committee.
“Wherefore, the instant protest [of Smartmatic]is hereby granted. Accordingly,the Commission hereby declares that the financial proposal submitted by the Smartmatic JV [joint venture]during the second stage of the competitive bidding for the lease of election management system and precinct-based optical reader optical scan system of the joint venture of Smartmatic Tim Corporation, total Informational Management Corporation,. Smartmatic International Holding B.V., and Jaritech International Corporatio is complete and responsive,” the Comelec en banc ruled.
Smartmatic, being the lowest calculated bidder, will undergo a post-qualification evaluation. The Venezuelan company will surely pass this evaluation and then be formally awarded the contract.
Smartmatic had supplied 82,000 units PCOS machines tha Comelec used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Two days before the retirement of then Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes who retired on January 31, the Commission approved a P268 million contract with Smartmatic for the diagnostics, refurbishment and repair of the 82,000 PCOS machines.
Many Comelec watchers saw it as a “midnight deal.” The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and AESWatch, the election watchdog NGO moved to bloc the diagnostics and refurbishing contract at the Supreme Court, which issued the TRO (temporary restraining order).
This Smartmatic victory could mean that its automated election system (AES) using PCOS machines, that made a mess of the 2010 and 2013 election, will once reign over the next elections.
That system violates the transparency requirement of the law governing automated elections. RA 9369’s title is “An act authorizing the Commission on Elections to use an automated election system …to encourage transparency, credibility …” The law also states that “the use of an automated election system … will ensure … that the process shall be transparent and credible …”. The Smartmatic AES does not.
The Smartmatic AES using the PCOS machines does all the reading of the ballots and the counting of results in the belly of the machines. The voters and the nation just have to believe that no error or cyber-tampering was done. The machine then spits out the vote count in the precinct and transmits it to the consolidation and canvassing centers.
Unlike the manual way before 2010, the Board of Election Inspectors in each precinct read each ballot and had the count tallied on a blackboard or whiteboard. The count and the process were seen by watchers from the rival political parties, the authorized election watchdog organizations and the press.
One could then prove fraud was committed when the numbers sent to the canvassing centers were not the same as the precinct’s publicly witnessed counting and total results.
Investigation has also shown that inside the PCOS machines lines appeared in the electronic image of ballots and the machine read the lines and interpreted them in ways that changed the election count.
These transparency problems are only the most obvious that cast doubts on the correctness and credibility of the precinct vote counts transmitted. There were also instances when the PCOS machines just did not transmit the results.
Because of these problems with AES systems, Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland, Australia and others–about 18 countries out of 30 that had adopted automated election systems–reverted to manual voting and counting. Great countries Japan and the United Kingdom have never shifted from manual voting and counting in the precincts because that is the way all watchers could witness the electoral process.
Our laws say the accuracy of automated system used must be at least 99.995 percent. Smartmatic with the PCOS never met this legal requirement in in any of its tests and mock elections.
There are safeguards in the process that Comelec and Smartmatic dismantled. The “source code” used by the machine’s software system by law should be reviewed by political parties and authorized IT expert groups. Review of the source code was never allowed.
Precinct election results should be signed and verified to be correct by the teachers making up the BEI. The results transmitted from precincts and precinct clusters had no digital signatures or any kind of affidavit of verification by the teachers. How could they when they don’t even know how the machine is counting the votes and adding them up?
There are many more gory defects of our electoral process because of the Smartmatic AES system with PCOS machines.
It must never be used again if we wish our elections to reflect the people’s choice.