Press Release
June 11, 2010

Severe flaws in automated elections cited by Pimentel

The electronic voting machines, called precinct count optical scan (PCOS), that were used for the country's very first automated elections on May 10 were not completely reliable and were tainted by certain anomalies.

This was the assessment of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. who said the automated electoral system that was used left a long trail of deficiencies that must be cured if the next elections will be automated again.

Pimentel, however, said that the irregularities, abnormalities or glitches that came with the process and the results of the automated elections in some parts of the country may not suffice to nullify the electoral exercise.

He decried that voters were denied the right to know how and if the votes they had cast for their chosen candidates were duly recorded by the PCOS machines.

"The paper trail that I, as a lawmaker, was assured would be available for that purpose, never materialized in any of the election machines used all over the country. All that came out of the PCOS machines was an inane, silly and childish message that said: 'Congratulations! You have successfully voted,' " the senator from Mindanao said.

These observations and evaluation on the conduct of the automated polls were contained in Pimentel's report as a member of the joint committee of the l4th Congress that canvassed the votes for the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Pimentel noted that there were several certificates of canvass electronically sent to the national canvassing and consolidation server (CCS) that contained data errors. Strictly speaking, he said those mistakes should have resulted in the nullification of the votes enumerated in the certificates.

Citing the analyses of information technology experts, he said the errors and deficiencies of the automated system could be blamed on the insufficiency or the disabling of safeguards that should have been built into the PCOS machines, as required by the AES law.

For instance, he said that the Philippine Computer Society found out that a number of devices or "compensating controls" were not installed in the voting machines to enable them to function with a 99.995 percent accuracy.

These compensating controls were listed down by the United States-based Systest Lab which tested the PCOS machines and supposedly certified by a technical evaluation committee of the Commission on Elections.

"Small wonder that Ambassador Tita de Villa, head of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) reported to the Joint National Canvassing Board that on the average the errors recorded by the PCOS machines was .007 percent, not .005 percent that was demanded by the contract between Smartmatic, the PCOS machines provider and the Comelec, the government agency in charge of ensuring orderly, clean and honest automated elections in the country," Pimentel said.

Commenting on the erroneous dates on the closure of the polls inscribed on some COCs transmitted to Congress, Pimentel said this indicated that the PCOS machines could have been tampered with or that the machines simply committed errors that corrupted the documents.

For example, he said that in Bacolod City, copies of the canvass reports from precincts in the city stated that the polls closed on Jan. l8, 2010. In Manila, there were election returns that bore the dates April 28, May 4 and May 9, indicating they were prepared and transmitted even before elections were held.

Pimentel cited the interpretation of Philippine Computer Society director Edmundo Casino on the inaccurate date and time stamped on the election returns:

"The only plausible explanation for this (anomaly) is that some cloned or similar PCOS device were used for scanning counterfeit ballots printed elsewhere in some clandestine areas so that the erroneous number of votes of the candidates for local or national positions on the dates and times shown in the election returns were recorded and captured as if they were genuinely 'original' in the compact flash memory card. And possibly during election day, the CF card bearing the pre-scanned and pre-counted results could have been switched with unused and real CF card."

Pimentel also criticized the Comelec and Smartmatic for the following missteps:

1. The arbitrary removal of security safeguards like the digital signatures of the members of the board of election inspectors that were supposed to accompany the electronically-sent canvass reports from the provinces and the cities.

2. The disabling of the ultra-violet reader in the PCOS machines intended for detecting security markings in the official ballots.

3. The non-obligatory use of 76,000 portable UV lamps that were purchased at a cost of P30 million.

4. The non-audit of CF cards which contained instructions for the PCOS machines to read entries in the ballots.

5. The failure or delay in conducting random manual audit of election results as mandated by the AES law.

6. The failure to follow a laderized system for transmitting election results.

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