Taking A Leap Of Faith: Automating The 2010 Elections
How real are the fears of next year’s elections failing?
In the interest of a full understand of this concern, At Midfield and FilipinoNewsNetwork are jointly reposting an article by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan:.
Staring at a failure of election in 2010
By Rafael M. Alunan III
BAD GOVERNANCE and all its consequences have, for the longest time, impacted on the state of the nation.
The erosion of confidence in the country as evidenced by the country’s repeated poor standing in human development and competitiveness report cards has impeded the nation’s progress. The failure to take corrective action is keeping us trapped in a state of mediocrity and steady decline.
“Garci 2004” spotlighted alleged presidential wrongdoing that shattered whatever trust was left in the institutions we depend on to uphold the Constitution, enforce the law and serve the people. No one has been held accountable because of the culture of entitlement and impunity, and the current administration’s fixation to stay in power beyond its term by any means possible.
It does not surprise, therefore, that credible experts have questioned the integrity of the automated system for the 2010 elections.
A joint study conducted by the UP College of Law AES2010 policy study team and Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg) research fellows point to 30 plus vulnerabilities!
The more important ones were classified as follows:
4 major legal issues:
• Undue delegation of legislative power
• Foreign ownership/control
• Generally, intolerable technical flaws
• Violation of statutory power
5 major technical issues:
• Source code (PCOS and CCS integrity)
• Program integrity verification
• Voter’s choice verifiability
• Protection of transmitted data—digital signature
• Root user/system administration
6 major management issues:
• Choice of technology
• Competence (Comelec and CAC)
• Procurement/ bidding
• Geographic Information System (GIS)
• Internal Rules and Regulations (IRR) and the adjudication process
• Comelec’s constitutional mandate
It concludes: “There is likelihood that the computerized election in 2010 can lead to computerized cheating or failure of election.” The study prompted Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) to release a statement on the subject, pertinent portions of which are reproduced below.
“There are legitimate fears about the source code for the Precinct Counting Optical Scanners (PCOS), a tightly-guarded secret known only to the foreign company to which the Comelec awarded the automation contract.
That source code, which is the set of instructions installed in the machine to ensure the security of the count, canvass and electronic transmission of the results, must be released to and reviewed by…quick-count organizations and the political parties soonest, so that doubts about manipulated results can be allayed.
The haphazard manner by which the Comelec tested and finally awarded the contract is now becoming apparent, from a strange failure to do adequate time-and-motion studies to an awful ratio of two specially-designed felt tip pens per voting precinct, with little consideration for normal election day lapses and occurrences.
The PCOS machines are susceptible to jamming, not the least reason for which is an official ballot that is long and narrow, with several hundred names printed in small font. Even the printing of these official ballots, with one set of names per municipality, is fraught with security concerns.
The absence of adequate safeguards gives rise to credible fears that the proposed automated counting and canvass (and transmission) would be akin to having thousands of faceless and voiceless Garcis manipulating the critical elections of 2010.
Free, honest choices
We are not averse to the modernization or automation of the canvass of votes, the area where manipulation of results has in the past been done with utmost impunity. But in a larger sense, technology must not, and cannot be allowed to deprive a people of their fundamental right to genuinely free and honest choices.
The fears raised by several sectors in the legal and IT communities mirror a general distrust not only in the Comelec as the guardian of the democratic vote…more so when the process lacks transparency and the implementers lack adequate competence and possess little credibility.”
These serious flaws led FSGO to propose either a postponement of the automated election system in 2010 or automating only the canvassing of election returns. Partial automation will allow the public to monitor manual counting at the precinct level while speeding up the canvassing of votes at succeeding levels where the process is most susceptible to cheating and delays.
Declarations that presidential elections will take place next year are difficult to accept hook, line and sinker due to the automated system’s 30+ vulnerabilities and the administration’s history of bad behavior. What is not being said, and should be committed to instead, are credible results and the peaceful transfer of power on June 30, 2010. The uncertainty undercuts recovery efforts and will only prolong everyone’s journey to a sustainable future.
We should be very angry. Our freedom, democracy and the right to quality of life are still being trifled with. Even so, let’s organize and protect the integrity of the process to the extent possible while preparing for extreme conditions. A big fight is looming. We either redeem ourselves or prolong our stay in the tunnel.
(The author is a member of the MAP Board of Governors and President of Lopez Group Foundation Inc. He previously served as Secretary of Tourism and the Interior and Local Government. )
The citizens’ suit asking the Supreme Court to throw out the automated elections system supply contract the COMELEC has signed with the Smartmatic firm with undenied links to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez continues to await resolution.
I believe the imperative of the times is for the Philippines to banish if not minimize fraud in the elections if our society is to achieve socio economic equilibrium.
Sadly reposing trust in both the COMELEC and in the government of the day is a most difficult but not impossible exercise.
It is a leap of faith that we must take.
Let’s do it