By Catherine S Valente & William Depasupil/Manila Times


Malacanang expects the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to resolve the glitches encountered last week during the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines ahead of the May 13 elections.

On Thursday, several glitches were noted during the FTS in Pasay City, including the malfunctioning of one machine at the P Villanueva Elementary School.

There was also one instance where one machine recognised an unshaded circle marked with an “x” by the voter.

Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte yesterday expressed confidence that these glitches will be resolved in time for the election day.

“Hopefully, any minor glitches that are being encountered in the preparations can be addressed immediately by the Comelec,” she said.

“And we trust that the institution will be able to carry out its mandate to provide a safe, honest and peaceful election on May 13,” she added.

Valte said the executive branch is ready “to provide the support that the Comelec needs in the execution of its duties.”

“The instrumentalities of the Executive branch, as mandated under the Constitution, will provide the support that they need,” she said.

Valte also assured the poll body that it will get full support from the military and the police force.

The Palace official said the Comelec shall remain the agency in charge and the one to call the shots on election matters. She stressed that it is up to the poll body to declare that all systems are in place and the elections will be carried out as mandated by law next Monday.

“That will be something for the Comelec to say,” she emphasised.

She also expressed confidence that the Comelec has contingency plans prepared in case problems or glitches occur next Monday.

However, a poll watch group, Automated Election System (AES)-Watch, said Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr himself “is now incredibly confused.”

“For instance, he says there is no source code for both the 2010 and the coming May 13, 2013 elections. The next day, he says there is a source code and it has been reviewed. He threatens to resign and then he takes back his word. At a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) hearing, he threatened to walk out after two women leaders of civil society groups raised legitimate questions of non-compliance by the Comelec and technology provider,” the group said.

It added that while critics are “non-lawyers,” Brillantes has no right to give them a lesson on how the automation law is implemented or “give a tongue-lashing even at accredited poll watchdogs for telling the truth and threaten to withdraw their accreditation.”

“The chilling effect of his threats, continues to deprive citizens’ groups and individual advocates of transparent elections including concerned scholars and experts of their right to know and express their views. Now they are called ‘election saboteurs.’ Under this type of stewardship—a powerful constitutional body at that— there is no assurance that our right to suffrage as concerned citizens, voters, and taxpayers is protected,” AES-Watch further said.

According to the group, there has never been any source code held by Smartmatic both in 2010 and until today, since the real owner of the election technology—Dominion Voting Systems—has refused its disclosure and review under a 2009 licensing agreement. “This makes the whole system non-transparent: There is no way the voter, without an independent source code review by political parties and other interested groups, is assured of the accuracy and integrity of the election software. The program bugs and errors found in 2010 that resulted in mismatch between ballot design and CF cards, the inclusion of erroneous pre-election FTS results, unbelievable statistics showing from 150mn to 250mn voters, and missing election data in 22% of the 60,000 clustered precincts cannot be corrected anymore,” it further claimed.

In the last elections, the group said the security of the ballot and counting process has been “compromised” by the disabling of major transparency, security and safeguard features.

These features include “voter verification and digital signature as well as the use of non-WORM CF cards, low accuracy rating (97% against the mandated 99.995%), inadequate field tests and mock elections, ballot bleeding and expected transmission glitches.”

On Thursday, no discrepancy between the results from the PCOS machine and the manual count was noted during the first FTS in a public school in Pasay City.

Brillantes even happily announced that the initial FTS was successful in Gotamco Elementary School after Precinct 24, Barangay 15, Zone 1, Pasay City Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) chairman Geraldine Milo revealed that the manual count tallied with PCOS results.

“We really expect it (the manual count) to tally (with the PCOS count). I hope this will happen all over the country. If ever there will be any discrepancy, it will only be very few,” the poll chief said during the FTS.

Brillantes attributed the initial success to the series of preliminary tests the Comelec conducted prior to the FTS.

“There were no preliminary tests in 2010 before the FTS. It would have prevented the discovery of the misaligned ballots just a week before the elections. This time we made sure it won’t happen again,” the Comelec head explained.

However, a clerical mistake during the manual counting happened when over voting in the party-list and city councillors were also counted. But after it was double checked, it was immediately corrected by Milo, by subtracting the votes in the particular positions where it had over votes.






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