It is eleven days to go before the elections. This late, many concerned groups and citizens are still questioning the integrity of the precinct count optical scan machines that will be used because the Comelec has not done anything to make the public confident that it can conduct a fair and honest election.
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes in a news report said that the source code had been examined. He would, however, not release the results of the evaluation. I think this is suspicious, because there is nothing wrong in making the source code public. In fact, would be better so that the political parties and the voting public would be assured of transparency.
But the Comelec has refused to make the results public. Brillantes is a complete computer ignoramus—or something more sinister is afoot.
If the source code is made public, then we would all know whether some or all security features have been turned off.
Perhaps Brillantes is hiding something. He has also challenged anyone to try to hack the PCOS machines, which is weird because the machine cannot be hacked. What is not safe is the software program embedded in the machine—it will instruct the PCOS to count and consolidate that can easily be hacked.
Like the many doubting Thomases out there, I am also wary about the coming elections. But whereas they question the machine, I am more interested in the people who would be handling the machines. These are simply tools that would perform their specified task if they are properly configured by Smartmatic and Comelec.
But if there are corrupt people in both agencies who will sell their technical know-how to unscrupulous candidates, then the conduct of the elections will be fraudulent in many areas. This is what everyone should guard against.
There are persistent reports that this is going to happen and both major parties are already accusing each other of the possibility of fraud. This is why it is important for concerned citizens to focus their attention and efforts, not on the PCOS machines alone, but on the Comelec so that safeguards can be undertaken. This I must say will not completely prevent manipulation but will at least make it more difficult.
What are these safeguards? The Comelec must first amend its resolution disabling the digital signature by restoring it to make it easier to trace where the manipulations are coming from. Cesar Flores of Smartmatic said in a Senate hearing that there is a built-in digital signature in the machine. This is a lie and he knows it. The Comelec must make a written certification that the provincial and municipal servers are online during the entire period of canvassing.
Telecommunication companies must be made to provide candidates with billing receipts to the Comelec as an independent counter measure that the servers were on line and working all the time during the canvassing.
Lastly, the Comelec must make available to the public the municipal, provincial and national servers so that the log files of these servers can be examined. The log file reveals all activities of the server—when it was switched on, switched off, or if there were manipulation of election data and others.
I trust that this is the least that the Comelec can do to assure the public that the elections will be fair and honest. It is their duty to go the extra mile to assure the public of the integrity of the elections. But if Comelec will again ignore these and look at it as a nuisance, then we should simply forget the words fair and honest.
The ambush of Mayor Ruth Guingona in Mindanao has again brought to the fore the inability of the government to establish control over large parts of the Philippine territory.
The collection of fees by the New People’s Army from candidates to be able to campaign in so-called NPA controlled areas is really nothing new. It has been going on for some time, not only in Mindanao but in other parts of the country. It used to be done in parts of the Cordilleras, the Bicol region and also in the Visayas. The NPA does not only demand fees from candidates; it also collects “revolutionary taxes” from businesses right in Central Luzon, an area so close to the National Capital Region. The “taxes” collected are used for their operational requirements and also to line the pockets of their high-ranking officials.
This of course, shows the bankruptcy of their ideology but this is hardly a consolation because the insurgency is alive and active. It has become for all intents and purposes a sort of corporation with sophisticated structure which in turn makes it difficult to dismantle.
In the meantime, the government response to this has been anemic and does not inspire any confidence at all. What kind of government do we have if it is unable to establish control in many parts of its territory? The government must plan counter measures to negate or diminish the capability of the NPA to make a mockery of our government. We cannot fight this by rhetoric alone. We need a credible program of action that can be funded properly and implemented efficiently.