Comelec operators outsmarting critics
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(First published in The Philippine Star issue of May 28, 2013)
TANTUM ERGO: Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and his Smartmatic partners continue to outsmart critics and poll watchdogs.
Almost like in a solemn presentation of the Holy Grail to the Pope, Brillantes received last May 9 a gleaming compact disc said to contain the long-sought Source Code that runs Smartmatic’s Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.
The CD, an encrypted copy of the original, was formally handed over by the software owner Dominion Elections System after receiving it from a representative of SLI Global Solutions, the firm contracted to check and certify the code.
Short of being blown incense and ensconced in a golden tabernacle, the CD copy was deposited in a vault of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Brillantes then deigned to allow diverse groups, including political parties and poll watchdogs, to review copies of the Source Code. That was his belated attempt to comply with the automated elections law mandating a pre-polls review.
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HOCUS-PCOS: The “reviewers” were sucked in, wittingly or unwittingly validating what has come to be known as the Hocus-PCOS show of an agency driving the May 13 election under the influence of a smart foreign operator.
Reported to be now looking for malicious entries in the code are the Liberal Party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, and the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, as well as the watchdog group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
Do these people really think they will spot malicious lines in their copy of the Source Code? “Malicious” describes any instruction (software) installed in the PCOS (hardware) intended to cheat or to thwart the free, full and fast determination of the will of the electorate.
Or are they wasting their time and just playing into the hands of Brillantes and Smartmatic?
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QUESTIONS: If there are malicious instructions still left in the Source Code copy after an unusually big delay in releasing it, would the CD have been made available for review to people bent on finding the tiniest error?
For doubts to be erased from the public mind, we need quick, honest answers to these questions:
1. What exactly was the SLI certification after its review of the Source Code? The full unedited text of the certification should be published.
2. How sure are we that the Source Code copy in the Central Bank vault is exactly the same code reviewed by the SLI?
3. How sure are we that the Source Code now being reviewed by political parties and watchdogs is exactly the same code that was compiled or translated into a Binary Code and installed into each of the 80,000 or so PCOS deployed nationwide?
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FUTILE EXERCISE?: Without blinking, Brillantes said over the weekend that while the ongoing review of the Source Code may be too late, it is not entirely useless.
To skeptics, however, the review could be an exercise in futility if the questions raised cannot find honest answers.
Reviewers may grow bleary-eyed for naught if there is no assurance of the integrity of the (1) CD handed over by SLI to the Comelec through Dominion, (2) copies of the CD in the BSP vault given to political parties and watchdogs for review, and (3) Binary Code installed in each and every PCOS.
Having lied about some vital details of the election – also considering the alarming malfunctioning of many PCOS/Compact Flash (CF) cards, and the slow, irregular canvassing -- Brillantes cannot be taken seriously solely on his word.
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TAMPERED EVIDENCE: But the question of whether or not the correct Binary Code was installed in each and every PCOS nationwide may have become moot.
Despite the petition of former senator Richard Gordon for the Supreme Court to order the Comelec not to move the PCOS from the scene of the crime, so to speak, most of the machines have been retrieved for warehousing.
That is insolent tampering of the evidence. How can now the same PCOS that had malfunctioned or delivered wrong returns and contributed to the confusion in the desultory canvassing be used in an investigation, trial or election protest?
The same evidence-tampering was committed when the Comelec reused last May the second-hand PCOS of the 2010 presidential elections after moving them to a central warehouse (whose air-conditioning alone reportedly costs taxpayers several million pesos a month).
(A footnote that may help explain a few things: Benigno S. Aquino III who won in the 2010 presidential elections was then the valued client of Brillantes. Will the lawyer now do or say anything that will tend to raise questions about his client, the PCOS and the 2010 polls?)
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‘BALUKTOT NA DAAN’: Is Smartmatic holding the Comelec hostage? One wonders what that foreign supplier has been feeding the commissioners that it is able to sell them almost anything.
By this time, the Comelec should have filed charges against Smartmatic, but it seems the poll body cannot bring itself to doing this and incriminating a lot of key people.
The Comelec has grown so bold as to dare walk the “Baluktot na Daan” (Crooked Path). For instance, it dropped unilaterally the security requirement that the CF cards be of the WORM (Write Once, Read Many) type as a safeguard against tampering.
Instead, it bought rewritable CF cards from – you guessed it – Smartmatic reportedly at an overprice. Written on the card are details, such as precinct, town/city, province, etc., for each PCOS, plus the voting score at the end of the day ready for transmission.
On the pretext of a malfunction, a trained and adequately motivated smart technician could insert a substitute CF card containing details, and voting scores, that may have been pre-written into it.
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