Feb 102014
The Commission on Elections might turn to other suppliers to provide the precinct counting optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 presidential polls, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Monday.

On the sidelines of the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, Brillantes said that the poll body is considering other companies along with Smartmatic-Total Information Management, which supplied the PCOS machines for the May 2013 elections.

“PCOS machines pa rin ang gagamitin natin for the 2016 elections, but it might not necessarily be the Smartmatic PCOS. Maraming alternatives,” he said.

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) is set to hold a technology fair on February 21 for companies interested in bidding for the contract.

The council was created to issue a recommendation on the kind of voting technology the Comelec should adopt for use in the 2016 polls.

Brillantes said that among the options being considered by the poll body is using both the old PCOS machines from Smartmatic and the new ones it is planning to purchase.

Smartmatic has claimed that the 82,000 PCOS machines purchased from it by Comelec for P1.8 billion could last even until the 2016 elections.

Comelec said in its report to the joint oversight committee that it will have to shell out P12.9 billion should it replace all the old machines with new ones.

The cost, however, would go down to P6.9 billion if the poll body decides to use the existing PCOS machines and just purchase additional units.

The Comelec estimates it will need 86,100 PCOS machines for the 2016 polls. Around 56 million voters are expected to participate in the next national elections.

Brillantes is hoping that Congress will approve its proposed P16-billion budget for the 2016 polls so that it could buy more PCOS machines to obtain a ratio of 600 voters per precinct instead of 1,000.

“If Congress gives us a good budget to cover the purchase of additional machines, then we can bring down the [voter limit per precinct] to 600,” he said.

The elections chair said the Comelec will only be able to shorten voting hours if the number of voters grouped in a precinct goes down.

“Yung 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. [voting period] natin noong 2013, pwede naming gawing 7 to 5 or 7 to 4 lang. Kapag mas maagang natapos ang eleksyon, ang [paglabas ng] resulta, mas mabilis din,” Brillantes said. — BM, GMA News

Jun 202013
Comelec revises protest rules, allows ballot images as evidence

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has revised its rules on protest cases to allow the using of ballot images as primary evidence. Poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Thursday this would be cheaper than using the paper ballots—which will have to be shipped from the protested precincts and stored at the Comelec warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna—for manual recount. “Ang matagal noon ‘yung retrieval of ballot boxes and then ang storage,” Brillantes said. “Ngayon you can dispense from all these by simply choosing decryption. You now waive the physical examination of the ballot.” The Comelec so far has received 69 poll cases in connection with the May 13 midterm elections. Every ballot-reading Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine has a removable storage device that stores an image of every ballot inserted by the voters. According to Resolution No. 9720, which amends Resolution No. 8804, “the protestant may… waive the recount of the paper ballots and instead resort to either the decryption and recount of the ballot images.” The protested and counter-protested precincts should be at most 20 percent of total number of precincts “to best illustrate the merits of the protest,” the amended resolution states. Meanwhile, another option for protestants is to “read the rejected ballots only of the entire protested or counter-protested precincts,” the Comelec’s new rules said. The rejected ballots, stored in envelopes after being spoiled, do not have PCOS images. “It’s very possible that these rejected ballots can determine the intent of the voter,” Brillantes said.    For Read More …

Jun 102013
Poll critics file complaint against 11 Comelec officials

Various poll watchdogs on Monday filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a complaint against 11 former and current Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials for allegedly “placing in grave peril the sanctity of the ballot” during the May 2010 and 2013 elections. The accused officials are former Comelec chairperson Jose Melo, former commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, Armando Velasco and Leonardo Leonida. The other respondents in the complaint are Director Jose Tolentino and Bartolome Sinocruz Jr.; Melo consultant Renato Garcia; Technical Evaluation Committee chairperson Denis Villorente and the committee members Ferdinand De Leon and Reynaldo Sy. Officials of Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp., the provider of the ballot-reading precinct count optical scan machines, were implicated, as well, including Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores. “This citizen’s action… being filed to hold into account public officers at the COMELEC who, in collusion with local and foreign business interests, placed in grave peril the sanctity of the ballot in the Philippines by approving the use of a highly-suspect… PCOS [machine] in,the [2010 and 2013] elections,” according to the complainants’ statement. The complainants are: former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr., Automated Elections System Watch co-convenor Fr. Jose Dizon, NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr., Workers’ Electoral Watch convenor Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, Gregorio Fabros of Kontra Daya, Center for People Empowerment in Governance executive director Evita Jimenez, and a certain Hector Barrios. Among the alleged violations committed by the Comelec and Smartmatic were: – Contract with Smartmatic pushed through despite the fact that Smartmatic’s Read More …

May 302013
Think tank finds May 13 polls ‘questionable’

Prof. Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies at think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) on Wednesday said the May 13 midterm polls were unreliable, citing several aspects of non-compliance with election laws. “Kwestyunable [dahil] ung proseso na dinaanan ng midterm elections—ranging from patuloy na non-compliance sa mahigpit na election provisions—digital signature, verifiability feature [hanggang] itong nangyaring premature proclamation,” Tuazon said in an interview aired over GMA News TV’s “News to Go”. Tuazon added that the observation was not just CenPEG’s alone, as other election watchdogs also saw the poll results as unreliable. “Kabilang na diyan ang AES (Automated Election System) watch at ilan pang kapatid dito sa election monitoring, ay nagkakaisa sila na kwestyunable ang naging conduct at naging resulta ng midterm election,” he said. Tuason pointed out that to date, around 10 million votes have yet to be counted and these “missing” votes gave the elections a sense of confusion. “‘Yung the fact na halos 13 thousand ER’s (election returns) ay hindi pa talagang nata-transmit, equivalent iyon to 8 million to 10 million votes that remained to be unaccounted for; pinaka latest ang discrepancies na nakita roon sa kalahati ng mga RMA (Random Manual Audit) areas,” he said. “Lahat ng ito, tingin namin, nagdudulot ng pangamba at agam agam sa question na was the vote really counted? Sino ba talaga actual na nanalo at natalo lalo na sa senatorial race?” he added. Accuracy rating Tuazon also brought up the much debated accuracy rating of the PCOS Read More …

May 292013
Brillantes: Random manual audit spotted 'variances' not discrepancies

Poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday said “variances” is a better term for the disparities spotted in the random manual count of votes instead of “discrepancies.” In a newspaper report, Brillantes was quoted as saying there were “discrepancies” between the random manual count and the machine-generated election results. The poll body has reportedly received 167 of the 234 randomly chosen precincts for the manual audit. “The correct term should have been, there were variances, which would actually be a toning down of a discrepancy,” Brillantes corrected himself at a press briefing on Wednesday. He added that his earlier statements were based on initial reports. Brillantes noted, too, that a random manual count is not expected to perfectly match the machine-generated results. He said the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine still reads the ballots even when the shading only covers 20 percent of the oval. Meanwhile, the auditors have their own “discretion” whether or not to audit the partially shaded ballots, Brillantes added. In the 2010 elections, the PCOS was programmed to read ovals shaded only 50 percent. “It could not be a perfect thing between the manual count and the machine count…  Ang tao hindi na-poprogram ang mata niyan, may kanya kanyang discretion, iba-iba ang assessment,” he said. “Pero talaga namang alam nila na hindi magta-tally ang machine count sa human visual count, may thresholding ‘yan eh,” Brillantes added, referring to the incomplete shading of the ballot. Still, Brillantes maintained the result of the manual audit so far Read More …

May 272013
Brillantes on Gordon's plea to retain PCOS machines in present locations: Shoulder the cost

Shoulder the cost. This was Elections chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.’s comments to defeated senatorial candidate Richard Gordon’s request that seek to prevent the Comelec from removing the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the May 13 polls from precincts, schoolhouses or present whereabouts. “Hindi na namin masosoli yung PCOS, wala na sa presinto yung PCOS. Kung gusto niya isoli niya ulit, pero gastusan niya. Nasa hubs na yung mga PCOS namin, pabalik na dito yung iba,” Brillantes told reporters Monday. Gordon filed last Wednesday an urgent petition for mandamus asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the Comelec from removing PCOS machines from precincts, schoolhouses or the machines’ present whereabouts. This was “to prevent anybody from tampering with the components, contents and software encoded into the said machine,” a press statement from Gordon’s camp said Thursday.   To which, Brillantes countered: “Basta ready siya to shoulder the cost we will open everything that he likes.”  Gordon also asked the SC to compel Brillantes to comply with his commitment to give him and other petitioners the complete digital copy of the source code for the automated election system used in this year’s polls. A source code is the set of instructions to be followed by the computerized voting machine, and is written by computer programmers in a readable symbolic language. Gordon, who placed 13th based on the official Comelec tally, is also the author of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Elections Systems Law. — Amita Legaspi/RSJ, Read More …

May 212013
Civil groups taking poll plaints to UN

By Jocelyn R. Uy Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:14 am | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 MANILA, Philippines—Civil society groups Solidarity Philippines and Kontra Daya on Tuesday said they were bringing to the attention of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) the inadequacies and lapses committed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the May 13 balloting. Over Church-run Radio Veritas, the groups’ convenor Fr. Joe Dizon said they were resorting to the move because the Comelec had not been transparent in its conduct of the recently concluded elections, the second time automated elections were held using the controversial precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. During the interview, Dizon said the complaint would include the premature proclamation of the winning senators as well as the glitches that popped up in the voting machines and the compact flash (CF) cards. “First and foremost, the Comelec erred in entering into a deal with Smartmatic and purchasing the PCOS machines because (Smartmatic) was not the owner of the source code,” Dizon said. The source code is the computer program that runs the PCOS machines. The PCOS technology, including the source code, is owned by Dominion Voting Systems Inc., which had severed its ties with Smartmatic following a legal dispute in the United States. Dizon also stressed that the recent elections should merit the attention of the UN body because the Comelec decided to proclaim the winners of the senatorial race even if only 20 percent of the total votes Read More …

May 052013
Comelec to ignore suits vs PCOS machines

By Jocelyn R. Uy, Philippine Daily InquirerPhilippine Daily Inquirer 5:24 pm | Sunday, May 5th, 2013 MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Sunday it would just ignore the lawsuit filed by civil society groups before the United Nations Committee on Human Rights over the use of the controversial precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the upcoming balloting. “Officially, we are not going to do anything with it. We will just disregard it since we are already too close to the elections to mind the AES Watch and their complaint to the UN,” said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. in an interview with reporters. Last week, civil society groups such as the Concerned Citizens Movement, Center for International Law and the Automated Election System Watch announced that it was filing a complaint against Comelec for failing to ensure the free expression of the will of voters in the 2010 elections by foregoing security measures and opting for the same system for the 2013 balloting. The groups also cited the lack of a source code review in 2010 in their complaint. Brillantes had branded the complaint as a mere “publicity stunt” by critics of the Comelec. “Maybe because they cannot win here in our courts anymore, including the Supreme Court, that’s why they went to the UN. They can even go anywhere in the world if they want,” the poll chief had stated upon learning of the complaint. Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said on Sunday the UN Read More …

May 012013
Final testing, sealing of PCOS machines begins Thursday in selected precincts

The final testing and sealing (FTS) of PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines is set to start in selected polling precincts Thursday, May 2, ahead of the original May 6 schedule. Poll chairman Sixto Brillantes said Wednesday the schedule was changed due to the arrival of the machines and the readiness of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) to test and seal them for the May 13 polls. “Pag dumating na ngayon at ready na ang BEIs gusto na nila i-testing agad kasi hindi sabay-sabay ang dating. Tsaka pag andun na ang PCOS, ready na paraphernalia, ready na for FTS, pwede na mag-umpisa,” he told reporters. One of the areas to first conduct an FTS on Thursday is Pasay City, first district. The whole of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is expected to conduct FTS on May 10. Brillantes said most of the areas will have their FTS on May 6. During the FTS, BEIs test the usability and accuracy of each PCOS machine by feeding it 10 test ballots to check that they are received and counted by the machine, said Brillantes. He said the ballots will also be counted manually to check for discrepancies. The detailed instruction for BEIs on the testing and sealing of PCOS machines and voting, counting and transmission of results on May 13 is stated in Comelec Resolution 9640. After the FTS, the PCOS machine will be sealed again and stored in the school or returned to the hub where it will be secured by Comelec security personnel Read More …

Apr 242013

MANILA, Apr 22 (Mabuhay) – With just 20 days before the midterm elections, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes says there is no more time for political parties and interested groups to do a review of the precinct count optical scan machine (PCOS) source code. Brillantes says even if the code is released now, […]