“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” wrote Shakespeare in his play “Romeo and Juliet.”
And so has the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) renamed the PCOS or Precinct Count Optical Scan VCM or Vote Counting Machine. Paraphrasing Shakespeare: “PCOS by any other name would smell as putrid.” It would still be injurious to the Filipino’s right of suffrage.
The 93,977 new VCMs which will be used in the 2016 elections and the 81,896 PCOS machines used for the 2010 and 2013 elections have the same underlying technology which is OMR or optical mark reader.
The VCM will use the same ballot style. Voters will be required to shade the ovals across the names of the candidates of their choice. The renamed machine will use and follow the same voting procedures and vote counting procedures as those used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Evaluation/assessment of the vote marks, vote recording, vote counting, and the preparation/generation of election returns will still be hidden from public view. It is likely to display the same message to the voter: “Congratulations! You have successfully voted!”
So, what’s new? None!
The VCMs will still be as non-transparent as the old PCOS machines and likely will not be able to meet the law’s accuracy requirement of 99.995%. Recall that the 2010 elections had 99.6% accuracy or 80 error marks out of 20,000 vote marks per random manual audit results. In 2013, it was 98.86% or 228 error marks out of 20,000 vote marks.
Accuracy of the PCOS apparently does not matter to the Commission on Elections. Section 7 of the Election Automation Law, Republic Act Number 8436 as amended by Republic Act Number 9369, prescribes the Minimum System Capabilities, to wit: “(e) Provision for voter verified paper audit trail” and “(n) Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice.” The voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is in the form of a receipt which is supposed to reflect the voter’s choices. One of the objections to the provision of the VVPAT is that it may be used for vote buying purposes. The other objection to the VVPAT receipt was expressed by Chairman Andres Bautista. Expressing concern over what if the VVPAT receipt does not match the voter’s choices, Chairman Bautista reportedly exclaimed: “Imagine the chaos.” The same with the alternative system of verification – the voter’s choices may be displayed on the display panel of the PCOS/VMC but what if the display does not accurately reflect the voter’s choices? If the Chairman doubts the ability of the PCOS renamed VCM to issue a VVPAT receipt or to have a system of verification that accurately reflects the voter’s choices, why continue with the use of the PCOS aka VCM?
Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections has awarded to SLI Global Solutions Inc. the contract for the review of the source code of the automated election system to be supplied by Smartmatic.
The review of the source code of the automated election system used in the 2010 elections was awarded to Systest Labs Inc. On September 1, 2010,Systest Labs Inc. was renamed to SLI Global Solutions Inc. and bagged the contract to review the source code of the automated election system used in the 2013 elections.
Looks like renaming is trending.
Systest Labs Inc. otherwise known as SLI Global Solutions Inc. has a tainted past. The US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) had suspended Systest Labs Inc’s accreditation as a voting systems testing laboratory following findings by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) of US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that Systest Labs Inc. lacked properly documented and validated test methods and testing is being conducted by unqualified personnel. The NVLAP also found “improper assurances made to manufacturers regarding testing outcomes.”
On September 1, 2010, Systest Labs Inc’s name change to SLI Global Solutions, Inc. became effective. Prior to changing its name, SysTest Labs Inc. requested the opportunity to cure its noncompliance with the EAC’s Voting System Test Laboratory (VSTL) requirement and submitted a cure plan which was approved by the EAC. The suspension of accreditation was lifted as of March 5, 2009.
Was the name change an attempt to cover its tainted past?
SLI Global Solutions, Inc., erstwhile Systest Labs Inc., for the third time, will once again review the source code of the automated election system to be supplied by Smartmatic for the 2016 elections. Is there no other alternative voting system testing laboratory that the Commission on Elections can tap? And, why should the taxpayers pay for the source code review? Cost of source code review by an international certification entity should be shouldered by Smartmatic!