ACCORDING to our news report, which some other papers and media also had, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will reactivate three of the four security features of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines that were deactivated during the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said, “All those features are there but as to whether we will enable the features, chances are [we will reactivate]at least three out of four.”
The four security features are the ballot verification or ultra violet detectors, the source code review, the digital signature and the voter verified paper audit trail.
Why only three?
Why not all of them when the law says all should be done?
A very important act that the Comelec has not done up to now is its promulgation of the IRR for the election automation law (RA 9369 Section 37).
The Comelec failed to comply with Republic Act No. 9369 simply because of the most basic thing required–the act’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR). Section 37 stipulates that “The Commission shall promulgate rules and regulation for the implementation and enforcement of this Act.” It’s been eight (8) years since the law was passed and two elections have been held but there has been no promulgation of the IRR.
Does Chairman Bautista realize what a serious dereliction of duty this is?
The Comelec also did not comply completely with the law’s requirements for electronic transmission, the handling of election returns, and many other aspects of the elections.
There was no authentication of electronically transmitted election results in 2010 and 2013 elections as required by law. There were 9 percent and 24 percent of election results not transmitted in 2010 and 2013 respectively. The transmission of these untransmitted results would surely have changed the results.
The law states about digital signatures the following:
“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.”
And about Certificates of Canvass and digital signatures:
“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.”
There were no digital signatures assigned to Board of Election Inspectors and Board of Canvassers. The Comelec depended on the machine digital signatures. Digital signing is defined in RA 8792 or e-Commerce Law of 2000.
And yet whether or nor there will be digital signatures is being treated as optional by the present Comelec?
On the Source Code Review (Section 11), the successful completion of a source code review must not be as questionable as in the 2010 and 2013 elections. Can the Comelec credibly affirm in a certification that the source code is kept in escrow with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and that the source code reviewed is one and the same as that used by the machines and all the machines?
The law also requires the Comelec to have a “Continuity Plan.” The plan should cover risks to the Automated Election System at all points in the process to avoid any failure of the process in any stage, whether at the voting, counting or result consolidation processes.
There was no continuity plan in the 2010 and 2013 elections–which is evidence by the failure to transmit 9 percent in 2010 and 24 percent in 2013 of the election results! At one point the PCOS CF cards of the machines were brought from the precincts to the consolidation centers for the results to be read directly from the cards! This is anomalous and unacceptable.
The present Comelec must make sure the 2016 elections don’t have these problems and provide for the required Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT. This was disabled in 2010 and 2013. It must be enabled in the PCOS machines now.
Also, the PCOS machines’ ability to detect fake ballots must be enabled–for heaven’s sake!