Smartmatic row with ex-partner may force manual counting


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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  • Bert

    hhmmmm, smells fishy…….

  • NinjaMan

    smart move by smartmatic to intentionally use CF cards, which are obsolete now. after this coming elections, the next elections comelec may have to contract smartmatic again to upgrade smartmatic to accept other media.

    • loclin

       Wrong.  Just because other media formats (like SD cards) are commonly available, does not mean CF cards are obsolete.  In fact, for professional applications and in most high-end equipment (say DSLRs), CF cards are preferred for speed, performance and reliability.

      And why should this voting system require more than one proprietary media? So that Juan Tamad can easily use his Galaxy Tab’s microSD card, in lieu of the “official” one?  Imagine on voting day the masses of people around precincts, such tiny cards can easily be “misplaced”! 

      There are probably numerous reasons why CF cards were chosen by system designers as the only official media requirement.  Fortunately, you are not one of the designers.

      • NinjaMan

        really? just because your ‘old’ dslr camera uses CF cards doesn’t mean the newer dslr cameras are still using CF cards. CF cards are obsolete, and come elections after this, it will become rarer and more expensive. once it becomes hard to find, comelec will have no choice but to have the PCOS machines updated. the reason why smartmatic risked this, because of people like you, who can’t see behind the picture or can’t think out of the box. in short, smartmatic knows there are more ignorant people than smart ones. just like our politicians.

    • nicosan

      hahahahha.. don’t you know there are systems running smoothly now that still uses Floppy disk??? 

      • NinjaMan

        i know, that doesn’t mean floppy disk is not obsolete. not only that, it’s become rare, and therefore more expensive per megabyte.

  • malek_abdul

    That’s the problem when you have middle man in every transaction. Why can’t the Comelec just went direct to Dominion Voting Systems?  Somebody’s head must roll sa kapalpakan ng mga namumuno ng Comelec. May kinalaman kaya si Abalos dito?

  • Franzeline Perdubal

    Panalo na si Binay at Zubiri. Hindi nandadaya sa eleksyon mga yan.

    Di ba Migz?

  • Alfred A


    “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an
    election, the people who count the votes do.” – Joseph Stalin… Watch-out COMELEC is cooking something.. 12-0 for LP??? Will Stalin be proven correct?

  • Fred

    If we go manual counting, how do we get back the people’s money paid to Smartmatic?

  • omg11

    What? Does that mean the maker of the hardware and software are two different companies? Keeps me wondering what criteria did COMELEC use in choosing Smartmatic as election machines supplier. And we already paid for these machines? tsk tsk…

    • ern

      talaga namang hiwalay yan. If you are a factory for computers, dun ka lang sa pag manufacture ng machine. Wala kang pakialam kung saan gagamitin yan. The users will employ programmers to make the machines usable tailored to their needs….yan yung software…’s simply not the turf of the machine manufacturers.

      • omg11

        Not true, the election machines are not like computers. These are fully customized machines with specific purpose. I know of a company who makes their own software to their machines. If the company who manufactured these machines do not own the software, this means they are not really in full control of their machines. They are amateurs compared to the companies who manufacture their machines from start to finish, hard ware and software included.

  • RyanE

    Hmm.. this same PCOS machines were used during the 2010 elections, hence the source code has been certified then. So why re-certify?

    • calipso_2100

      The HW may be the same, but the firmware running in it and software in the servers may have changed.

      • RyanE

        The 2010 elections had gone fairly well so I guess the old firmware and software should be utilized.

  • J

    Sus ginoo dapat sa mga ito tangalan ang kalahati nilang mga batillog. Kung kelan malapit na ang election doon pa maglalabas ng bomba. Ang Comelec talaga parte ng problema.

  • pinoypower

    Bakit kasi ang hilig sa foreign contractor ay ang dami namang magaling na Pinoy computer programmers? Ayun tuloy ang daming problema ngayon. Ang Comelec noon at Comelec ngayon parehong kulang sa planning at technical judgement.
    Ang hirap dito sa Pilipinas mapa-manual mapa-automatic ang daming mandaraya!

  • JasonBieber

    Is this the problem that we need to hear about with the elections in a few months?

    What is the Comelec doing? Or what were they doing? This problem has been a problem for quite some time now…why is it that they allowed it to blow to this proportion?

    Now they may go manual…so now we’re going to have even bigger problems. We want an honest elections but it does not seem that the Comelec is working hard enough for that.

  • symonwho

    kasi si brilliantes akala mo it expert. sabi niya they will use the certified copy for the armm election na certified kuno ng sli. now bakit di niya i-push yun bakit manual na lang? that’s what we get from people who assumes a lot. better listen to gus lagman from now para di kayo mapaso. sisirain ninyo pa democracy sa pilipinas sa gulo ng 2013 election.

  • calipso_2100

    “to allow it to review the binary code or the software on binaries instead.”

    Hahaha. Do you even know what you are talking about?

    • kismaytami

      Somebody from Comelec’s IT department should tell mr. brillantes that codes in 1s and 0s is almost impossible to be read by humans, and Assembly Language programmers are so scarce, most of them can only be found on Intel and AMD. Unluckily, Intel Philippines is already closed.

      • nicosan

        well it doesnt mean that if you can’t do it, nobody can… sure there are gifted Filipino IT Talents out there that can decompile those binaries..

      • Karabukov

        While theoretically, “those binaries” (machine code) can be decompiled – and it would take another software derived from the original compiler (of the computer language used) to do it what good will that do? The only practical and quixotic purpose to that would be to reverse engineer the software, a dubious adventure at best and certain to be illegal, if even possible.

      • kismaytami

        LOL! I never said I can or can’t do it. Funny how you came up with that.

      • Karabukov

        “…almost impossible” to be read by humans.

        Make that “impossible” and you would be absolutely right and that includes Assembly Language programmers.

  • 2rey3

    So there was really no source code used during the 2010 Presidential elections contrary to the claim of SMARTMATIC and certified by the COMELEC and the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Ano pala yong election na yon GAWAGAWA OF HAOSHAO?? The source code is very important because it is the program that makes sure that the PCOS machines worked properly. Tapos wala pala because Dominion did not deliver it to SMARTMATIC based on the complaint of the latter against the former in a Florida court!!!

    • parefrank

      You are wrong. The binary code runs the machines. Because computers do not understand normal language commands, all will then be compiled (assembled) into binary code which the computer understands,  BI means two and the binary code is made of 1 and 0 only, even rows of it. 1 is like “on” and 0 is like “off” to the flow of electricity through “cells” of the chip which sends these signals to the processor.
      The source code is made by using words like go, jump, add etc. and should remain the property of the program manufacturer or anyone can use and alter it. Like programming dagdag bawas. 2010 Smartmatic changed all chips days before election and nobody could check if the code was the same than which was originally in the changed chips. After election, when complaints came up, Comelec confiscated and destroyed about 80 million chips, worth billions, to avoid independent checking.

      • nicosan

        nice explanation.. i hope people here read what you wrote so they don’t make stupid comments.

  • symonwho

    source code  is much much easier to read than machine instructions generated as a result of compliliation of the sorce code. titira na naman ang it experts ng comelec eh palpak na naman sigurado ito. These reviewers must know the instruction set and basic microcode of the PCOS by heart so they can really do a good audit of the sofware. note that one line of source code could generate several lines of machine instructions.

  • nparvus1202

    Aba simula ng maupo si ABNoy wala ng matinong nangyayari sa gobyerno ah. Puro na lang kaabnoyan.

    • Karabukov

      You’re talking from ignorance.

  • speedstream2

    Should a business dispute be allowed to trump national interest and the common good? Surely the government has options it can explore to iron out this wrinkle asap.

  • parefrank

    All the world knows about the Smartmatic problems, only Comelec not. Smartmatic is only selling hard- and software which are from other firms. They have no wn inventions.

    Checking the binary code only? How you know what it means without first to disassemble it so that you can understand the programming? Just looking that the binary code on the chips is the same than a given binary code means nothing. And very visible, Brillantes knows nothing.

  • parefrank

    to omg11

    Yes, that it means. And probably both are not Smartmatic itself, Smartmatic is a conglomerate of bought or licensed facilities with dozens of aggresses and business purposes, from voting to property. Look at the we, you will be surprised. It was founded in Venezuela with participation of the vice president, obviously for to ensure the re-election of the Chavez administration. Why such foreign business has to manage the RP election is a question.

  • nparvus1202

    Bakit kaya sa Smatmatic nakipag deal ang Comelec at hindi derekta sa Dominion. Eh sila pala may-ari ng code.

  • Fulpol

    i always commented: push for OPEN SOURCE…. not CLOSE SOURCE…

    now see, what you got by hiring exclusive software provider…

    • nicosan

      hahahaha.. funny.. this comment made me laugh hard!

    • tortang_sapatos

      Well, on my opinion hindi naman po because it is not open source, it just mean they failed to secure copy of the current source code. A source code dba needs to be compiled so that it would be a machine readable language? Remember that they are using machines that are specifically built for their needs and I dont believe it would accept just the source. Even if it is open source, once it is already compiled to “their” version – they would still need the source code where that compiled version came from, dba?

  • MarcyPulilan

    In absence of certification on the source code, documented, approved and certified tests on the machine is the next best alternative. Test and see if the PCOS machines reads the ballots properly, what does it do with multiple shaded ballots, what does it do with ballots without shades, how about crumpled, mutilated abllots, how does it handle it.How aout log, would the votes tally with the logs at the right sequence and time stamps. We need to know if it gives accurate results, no time to read the source code , it is also prone to debates and opinions especially programmers have their own styles.

  • pepito gwaps

    In industrial world, Machine that doesnt work means downtime!! Lugi. It it is non-productive activity. Is there any technician or govt programmer that can fix the glitches? If there is none so change the manager!!

  • Javy

    This is the result of the bull-headedness of the Comelec, particularly Commissioner Brilliantes.  They knew it was a potentially massive problem, but they chose to ignore it.  How much more incompetence will we tolerate from these officials?  Impeach them during the next congressional session before they do any more damage to our electoral system.

  • sl1

    The gov’t can put pressure with this company that any disruption to the incoming election related to the voting system machine will not be tolerated and the gov’t will take drastic action to those responsible.

  • Pogi=”No To Political Dynasty”

    HAHA Manual voting? Pakana nanaman ito ng mga buwaya sa politika. Mahihirapan kasi sila na mandaya sa automated dahil wala pa silang nakukuhang hacker na pabor sa gang nila.

  • suburbanmother

    I do not understand the technical jargon but it sounds to me as yet another excuse to give the politicians a chance to cheat in the elections. It gives hope to those who are unpopular to wrok their magic and win big. Everyone will hve an opportunity to make more money including comelec. Highest bidder anyone?

  • Jane Tan

    Lol… Yan ang nangyayari kung biased ang pagbigay ng contract. Baka naman sinadya ninyo yan para may rason kayo hingin ang source code, para pwede ninyo i-tamper ang mga machines come election time.

  • Nerraw

    Only in the Philippines!!!!Ano yan ang contractor na ang nasusunod, ang masakit government project pa. 2013 na manual counting padin…

  • Karabukov

    “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.”

    With all due respect sirs, not even a programming genius can do that, i.e review the binaries and certify its worthiness, without access to the source code and whoever reviews the source code needs to be a specialist on the particular computer language used, and even that is difficult enough without the cooperation of the original programmers.

    I’m afraid Mr. Brillantes is talking from ignorance. And I’m afraid that is an understatement.

  • Karabukov

    Let’s all be real here. The legal requirement to have the source code certified by a so-called independent body of computer experts will not guarantee the reliability and overall worthiness of a software used to run a system.

    Accounting systems, medical software and other mission-critical systems (such as those used in flying commercial airplanes) do not lend themselves to proper evaluation as to effectiveness, reliability and accuracy through an examination and evaluation of the source codes. They prove their worth in real-time real life performance.

    As for data-driven systems where numerical accuracy is paramount, they need primarily to be capable of being properly audited, or leave an audit trail that can be examined after the fact. Hence, for voting systems, system analysts with sufficient knowledge of current state of the art in software design will immensely do a better job at judging or evaluating the reliability, accuracy, timeliness and overall “sea-worthiness” of the system, including the software or firmware used being only an integral part of the whole. CPA’s and experienced system analysts will do a better job at it than even experienced software developers and programmers who as required by this, I would have to say archaic provision of the law will have to evaluate the source code.

    Good heavens, it just occured to me that requiring a software developer to give its source codes for examination could be tantamount to asking it to surrender its trade secrets! Can you imagine Microsoft giving the source codes of its Windows 7 or 8 as a condition of its being used in Philippine government offices? Absurd.

    Whoever wrote the law pertaining to this automated system was thinking COBOL, BASIC or FORTRAN, ancient languages that while still in use are no longer state of the art but whose source codes are pretty easy to read.

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