The source code for the computerized machines to be used in Monday’s elections was finally turned over on Thursday to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. proudly waved the compact disc containing the source code of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in front of the media after it was handed to him by representatives of Dominion Voting Systems, which developed the code.
“I wanted to cry. This is the culmination of our months of hard work. We settled the credibility issue today. That should be good enough,” Brillantes said.
He had reason to be relieved. Comelec had been roundly criticized for the delay in getting hold of the code.
A source code is a set of instructions that serves as a key or basis for running a computer program for railway signalling systems, electronic medical equipment, or in this case, the PCOS machines.
Under the poll automation law, the Comelec should make the source code “available and open to any interested political party or groups, which may conduct their own review.”
Brillantes said the 2013 source code incorporates features of the 2010 code with enhancements in the 2011 code. However, the code lacks the last eight of nine enhancements the Comelec had asked for the May 13 polls since it came after the legal battle between Dominion and Smartmatic, which provided the PCOS machines.
He said that because of the ongoing case, the terms and conditions of the release are still confidential.
“There is an agreement but we are not going to divulge the terms and conditions because this agreement is personal to Smartmatic and Dominion. There are items in the agreement which are supposed to be confidential in character,” Brillantes said.
He said that SLI Global Solutions, the third party reviewer, has certified that the source code given by Dominion contains no malicious software.
“These are the three words: proper, accurate and secured. That is the certification of SLI after they conducted the source code review,” the Comelec head said.
During the ceremony on Thursday, SLI handed over to Dominion a soft copy of the reviewed source code. The software owner then authenticated the code and installed it in the Comelec computer that will be used for the review of political parties and interested groups.
After Dominion encrypted the code Brillantes placed the copy of the code, along with the source codes of the Election Management System (EMS) and the Consolidated and Canvassing System (CCS) inside a metal black box that was locked and sealed.
Brillantes later brought the box to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for safekeeping.
Wasting no time, representatives of the PDP-Laban, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) Party, and the Liberal Party (LP) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) lined up to review the code.
Brillantes said the review may continue until today and could resume after Election Day.
Brillantes also brushed aside the appeal of former senator Richard Gordon to postpone Monday’s elections.
“There is only one ground [to defer the upcoming polls]: Only an act of God would postpone the elections, and not on the prodding of [former]senator Gordon,” he said.
On Wednesday, Gordon told the Supreme Court (SC) there can be no genuine automation of the 2013 polls unless the source code has been examined.
He argued that in order not to compromise the credibility of the elections, manual counting should be done but the transmission should be done electronically.
Brillantes insisted that based on the Omnibus Election Code, it is impossible to postpone the elections since only Congress can do it by passing a law.
“We don’t have the authority [to postpone the upcoming polls]except in specific areas, specific grounds. Even the SC (Supreme Court) will find it difficult to postpone the elections,” he said.
Former election commissioner Gus Lagman said there is no time left for reviewing the source code to determine its accuracy and if it doesn’t have malicious software.
Lagman said a thorough review takes at least four months.
“There is no more time to review so it means nothing,” said Lagman, who is also an information technology (IT) expert.
Since the presentation of PCOS code will not help ensure the accuracy of the PCOS system, Lagman insisted that Comelec allow a parallel manual count in every polling precinct.
He said it needs only an additional five to 12 hours to manually count the votes, which is a small price to pay for a credible election.
If parallel manual count is not possible, Lagman said, the Comelec should at least increase to three the number of precincts that would be subjected to random manual audit (RMA) in every municipality.
The Comelec only plans to conduct the RMA in one precinct per legislative district. The poll body earlier decided to reduce the number of precincts to be subjected to RMA from five to one to speed up the release of the election results.