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Finally, Comelec bares PCOS source code

Paterno Esmaquel II
(2nd UPDATE) Even the Comelec chief says it's his first time to see the PCOS 'master blueprint'

'IT'S HERE.' For the first time, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr presents the CD containing the PCOS source code. Photo courtesy of the office of Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Lo and behold, the CD that contains the code for ballot-counting machines, the source of widespread apprehensions over the automated polls.

For the first time on Thursday, May 9, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr presented the source code of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for 2013. Brillantes said he spent months to get the source code, a tool the boost the credibility of elections.

On behalf of the Comelec, Brillantes officially received the source code from the US-based Dominion Voting Systems on Thursday morning. He earlier said it’s his first time to see the PCOS source code.

IT'S HERE. For the first time, the Comelec presents the PCOS source code for 2013. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

The long-awaited local review of the PCOS source code – which is described as the “master blueprint” of the ballot-counting machines – began Thursday afternoon. The PCOS source code will undergo this process for the first time.

During the press conference, Brillantes explained the source code review by political parties “is not a prerequisite” for the midterm elections. “But it is important in the sense that it will now show that these elections will be credible even to the contending political parties.”

'FINALLY.' The Comelec holds a press conference to officially present the PCOS source code. Photo courtesy of the office of Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca

The source code was held hostage by a legal battle between the US-based Dominion Voting Systems, which owns the source code, and the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic, which sold the Philippines its PCOS machines.

Dominion has agreed to release the PCOS source code after negotiations, which Brillantes himself oversaw.

SEALED BOX. The Comelec puts the PCOS source code in a box to be deposited in the Central Bank. Photo courtesy of the office of Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca

Both parties, however, refused to divulge the terms of the contract that allowed the Philippines to get the PCOS source code. Brillantes said a non-disclosure agreement binds both parties.

Despite this, Brillantes said: “We owe so much both to Dominion and to Smartmatic. And the reason for this is because they don’t want the May 13, 2013 elections in this country (to) have some taint, weakness, or lack of credibility.”

FOR GOOD LUCK? Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr blows the sealed box containing the PCOS source code. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

Too late?

On Wednesday, Brillantes faced the Supreme Court (SC) in oral arguments over the PCOS source code. Senatorial bet Richard Gordon, who filed a petition that brought Brillantes there, told the SC that the midterm elections should be deferred without a local source code review.

Watchdogs have long demanded to see – and review – the PCOS source code to allay fears of manipulation that can lead to fraud. The first automated elections, which made use of the PCOS, pushed through without a local source code review. (READ: FAQs: Why worry about PCOS code?)

This year, Brillantes said, the Comelec will open the PCOS source code for a local review 4 days before the midterm elections. Critics have said it is too late, but Brillantes has said this is the best that the Comelec can do given the situation.

PCOS CODE. The source code review will boost the credibility of elections, says the poll chief. File photo by John Javellana

Nevertheless, the Comelec has cited the source code review by the international, independent company SLI. The poll body said this meets the law’s requirements.

Brillantes said Dominion has brought the master source code while SLI has brought the source code it reviewed. The source code brought by Dominion arrived Tuesday, May 7, while the one with SLI arrived Sunday, May 5.

The press conference on Thursday was attended by Smartmatic, Dominion, SLI, poll watchdogs, and other stakeholders. – with reports from Dean Lozarie/

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at