MAY POLLS

Smartmatic row with ex-partner may force manual counting

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05:43 PM February 12th, 2013

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February 12th, 2013 05:43 PM

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the election body will try to convince the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System to allow it to review the binary code or the software on binaries instead.. RAFFY LERMA FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The unresolved dispute between Smartmatic and its erstwhile business partner,  Dominion Voting Systems, which refuses to allow a review of the source code of the ballot scanning and vote counting machines to be used in the May elections,  may force the Commission on Elections to return to manual counting of votes in the midterm elections.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the election body will try to convince the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System to allow it to review the binary code or the software on binaries instead.

The source code is the human-readable representation of instructions that regulate the operation of a computer, which scans and counts ballots, among other things. A binary code, on the other hand, is composed of instructions that are machine-readable.

“But if the JCOC won’t approve, we are left with no choice…. They will have to tell us that we should go manual,” said Brillantes told reporters.

Late last month, Brillantes revealed that the US-based Dominion had refused to give a third party IT firm, SLI Global Solutions, its consent to release its certification for the source code to be used in the May 13 elections.

The Comelec contracted SLI to review and certify the source code for the May 13 elections in September last year.

The poll chief said that Wednesday is the deadline for the review of the source code. He was expecting to receive a report from SLI on the matter Tuesday.

The Poll Automation Law provides that a source code review must be conducted on the automated election system and must be held in escrow with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It also stated that the source code reviewed “is one and the same as that used by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.”

Brillantes said only the JCOC can spare the Comelec from such requirement. “We will justify before the committee that this binary code runs the automated elections,” he said.

“For purposes of elections, what do you put in the machine, the source code or binary? Of course, the one that will be read by the machine. The binary code is important, not the source code,” he added.

But Brillantes said the election body might have a hard time “running to the JCOC for help” at this time since Congress was on recess to give way to the campaign period and many of its members were running for reelection in the forthcoming balloting.

Last year, Smartmatic filed a case against Dominion in Florida over the latter’s alleged breach of a licensing agreement and “tortuous” interference with Smartmatic’s business.

The Comelec’s 2010 technology provider had also accused Dominion of withholding technology and services that had been licensed to them.

The deal between Smartmatic and Dominion had allowed the former to use Dominion’s software to operate the voting machines and install pertinent upgrades to address glitches in the system.

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