CEBU CITY—The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) believes the computerized voting machines successfully used in the 2010 elections are flawed and he wants them thoroughly examined before these are used in next year’s midterm elections.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma’s doubts about the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines echo those of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who has been saying for some time that the voting machines are not perfect.
On Wednesday, Pimentel called on the country’s computer experts to join the hunt for glitches in the source codes that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will use in the machines.
Made by the Argentinian company Smartmatic International, the PCOS machine uses paper ballots and counts the votes.
The machine may be turned on by using a security key entrusted to the polling precinct’s board of election inspectors.
Security pins are needed to configure the machine and show that there is no entry or vote in its memory.
The machine scans the marked ballots fed into it by voters. At the end of the balloting, the machine counts the votes and prints the returns.
The returns can be electronically transmitted to the Comelec central server and the board of canvassers at the municipal, city, provincial and national levels.
Palma, CBCP president, told a news conference at the Archbishop’s Palace on Wednesday that he believed the PCOS machines had defects.
“I, for one, can tell, or I will say I’m not ashamed to tell people that I also believe [the PCOS machine has defects]. It has to be examined and that is part of the agenda of the CBCP,” Palma said.
Palma was responding to a question about the possibility that the PCOS machines could still be manipulated and used in cheating, like what happened in some parts of the country in 2010.
He said the PCOS machine would be on the agenda of the CBCP meeting in January.
Palma said the conference would discuss the voting machines because many people had reason to believe that the machines had “a lot of defects.”
But Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano said the PCOS machines were not defective.
Castillano said the Comelec had plans to put in additional features in the PCOS machines to enhance its security and integrity for next year’s elections.
“We assure the public that the Comelec will not agree to the use of defective PCOS machines [in the elections],” he said.
“We will not compromise the integrity of the elections just to push through with the polls. If the PCOS machines are defective, then we will not use these.”
He maintained that the accusations that the PCOS machines were used to cheat in the 2010 elections had not been proven.
Castillano recalled that in the court proceedings on the election protests questioning the results of PCOS count, the manual count showed the same results as the computerized count.
He cited as an example the protest of a losing candidate in San Fernando town in Cebu province where the court recount showed the same results as the PCOS count.
Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and a reelectionist on the administration ticket, called on the Comelec to be less restrictive in having experts examine the source codes that would be used in the PCOS machines.
Pimentel said the Comelec should allow the source codes to be examined outside the commission’s premises.
“Our objective is to bring back the trust of the people in the Comelec and the elections,” Pimentel said in a statement.
“A review of the source codes would allow the detection of glitches, flaws and vulnerabilities in our electronic electoral system,” he said.
“Such flaws in the software and the hardware that use them must be detected and corrected if the 2013 and succeeding elections are to be protected from sabotage or attempts to favor any particular candidate,” Pimentel added.
Pimentel invited the country’s information technology experts to volunteer to help review the PCOS source codes.
He said the Senate panel on electoral reforms would gather together the experts for the examination of the codes for flaws that may be used for sabotage and fraud.—With reports from Norman Bordadora in Manila and Inquirer Research