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'No malicious code' in PCOS - int'l experts

Paterno Esmaquel II
Posted on 02/14/2013 7:02 PM  | Updated 02/15/2013 12:20 AM

SEAL OF APPROVAL. International experts have certified it is safe to use PCOS machines on May 13. Photo by John JavellanaSEAL OF APPROVAL. International experts have certified it is safe to use PCOS machines on May 13. Photo by John Javellana

MANILA, Philippines – Blasted for its “preposterous” claims, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, February 14, released an expert committee's certification that it is safe to use its old ballot-counting machines on election day.

Citing a report by the Denver-based SLI Global Solutions, a poll technical evaluation committee (TEC) said the automated election system (AES) “can operate properly, securely, and accurately.”

The TEC certified this in Resolution No. 2013-001 on Tuesday, February 12, a day before the deadline the law mandates. The TEC certification involved the AES, including the source code, defined by the Automated Elections Law as the “human readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do.”

In its report submitted to the committee, SLI said the “critical” or “major” programming issues concerning the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines “have been resolved.” It added: “There were no instances discovered of any intentionally malicious code having been written by the vendor and included in the voting system source code."

The 4-page TEC report was signed by Denis Villorente, committee chairman, who comes from the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology; Comelec's Ferdinand de Leon; and Reynaldo Sy of the Information and Communications Technology Office. (Read the TEC's full report below.)

Source code or none

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr on Wednesday, February 13, allayed fears that the country will have to revert to manual polls due to an issue with the source code.

While the TEC issued a positive report, Brillantes said the Comelec could not release the source code for review by local political parties, among other concerned groups, because of a legal dispute between two companies.

This involves Smartmatic, which sold Comelec its PCOS machines, and Dominion Voting Systems, which owns the system used by Smartmatic. Dominion barred SLI from releasing the source code unless the dispute is settled.

Brillantes, however, downplayed the importance of a source code review by local groups. “What is important is the international certification, which is totally independent,” he explained.

Brillantes added it is already "impossible" for the country to revert to manual polls. “With the certification issued by the TEC, we're going to proceed, automated, no matter what happens. Source code is there or not – better if it's there, not necessary if it's not.” (Watch more in the video below.)

'Impeach Brillantes'

In an interview with ANC on Thursday, however, an election watchdog called Brillantes' statements “preposterous." AES Watch's Maricol Akol insisted on a source code review by local groups.

“The reason that we want the source code, aside from it being in the law, is we don't want, at the end of the day, (that) people will question (the election results),” Akol said.

“And we know,” she added, “because there are so many vulnerabilities in the system that they're going to get a loophole and say, 'Huh? Kaya nagkadayaan, kasi hindi na-review 'yang source code na 'yan eh. Hindi namin alam kung may embedded software diyan na nagdagdag-bawas.” (“Huh? Perhaps that's why there was cheating, because the source code was not reviewed. We don't know if it has embedded software that may be used to cheat.”)

Akol also threatened Brillantes with impeachment. “Probably with so many other people going to file their complaints, I think he should think about impeachment proceedings that the public might put up against him if he continues to violate the law. He cannot take the source code matter very lightly,” she said.

Just a week ago, Brillantes almost walked out of a congressional hearing due to an election watchdog's question about the source code.

“If it will be repeated again here, can I just step out because I'm getting... mahirap, ang bigat na ho ng tainga ko. Paulit-ulit na eh,” Brillantes said. (It's difficult; it grates on the ear. It's the same thing over and over again.) –

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