Comelec sets scrutiny of voting machines 3 months before polls

MANILA, Philippines – For the presidential elections in May 2016, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is set to open voting machines for scrutiny earlier than it did in 2013. 

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body is scheduled to open the machines’ “master blueprint” for review before February 2016, or at least 3 months before the elections.

This master blueprint is called the source code.

In 2013, the Comelec presented the source code of voting machines for review only on May 9, or 4 days before elections.

“This is important because organizations usually complain that they have too short a time to review the source code. So now we’re opening up everything so you have all the time now until the election day to review all the codes,” Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim said in Filipino. 

Bautista added, “This is one difference between how 2016 will be conducted as opposed to 2010 and 2013.”

Calls to blacklist Smartmatic

A Philippine law defines the source code as “human-readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do.”

Source codes contain instructions for counting and canvassing votes – which, if manipulated, could lead to fraud. (READ: FAQs: Why worry about PCOS code?

To ensure close scrutiny of voting machines, Bautista said the Comelec is scheduling another review before the source code review. 

This initial activity is called the base code review. The Comelec is setting the base code review before October 15, 2016, Bautista said. 

Lim explained that the the base code “is the basic source code” of a program. This is the code that hasn’t been customized to comply with Philippine election laws. 

The source code review comes as the Comelec is set to use 93,000 optical mark reader machines of controversial firm Smartmatic in May 2016.

Smartmatic’s critics have urged the Comelec to blacklist the Venezuelan firm from election services. (READ: Competitor scores Smartmatic for 'monopoly' in polls')

The critics have claimed that Smartmatic machines can be easily rigged. (READ: Poll watchdog pushes for 'laptop count' to replace PCOS) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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