It’s D-Day for PCOS machinesBy Jerome Aning, Jocelyn Uy |Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be conducting its final dry run or field testing of the controversial precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines on Monday, one week before the May 13 midterm elections.
D-Day denotes June 6, 1944, the day the Allied forces invaded Europe to free it from Germany’s clutches. The term has come to mean a decisive day.
All critics of the automated election system have been urged to watch closely while the boards of election inspectors from 80,000 clustered precincts complete the test using genuine official ballots to be fed into the PCOS machines by 10 voters randomly selected from among those present at the sites.
The exercise is expected to generate 800,000 test ballots from all over the country. It would include the printing of the test election returns for national and local candidates and the results will be compared to a manual count of the 10 ballots cast in each precinct. If all goes well, the PCOS machines will then be sealed.
The final field test will be conducted despite a lawsuit filed by civil society groups—Concerned Citizens Movement, Center for International Law and Automated Election System (AES) Watch—in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over the use of the PCOS machines in the coming Philippine elections.
AES Watch, represented by lawyer Harry Roque, wants the UN council to declare the Comelec in violation of Filipinos’ civil and political rights for failing to open to AES the source code of the PCOS machines.
The Comelec on Sunday said it would ignore the lawsuit.
“Officially, we are not going to do anything (about the suit). We will just disregard it since we are already too close to the elections to mind AES Watch and its complaint to the UN,” said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. in an interview with reporters.
Brillantes earlier 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 said.
On the other hand, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal urged critics of the automated election system to observe Monday’s test closely. He also answered the points raised by AES Watch in their complaint to the UN.
Great service to nation
“Information technology experts critical of the PCOS machines will be doing a great service to the nation if they can prove their vaunted claim that the PCOS system can be hacked and its results tampered with. With 800,000 test ballots, these critics have an equal number of chances… to prove if the contents of any of these ballots can be manipulated, changed or tampered with to favor a particular candidate,” Macalintal said in a statement.
“Only by showing that a ballot cast for Candidate A was credited by the PCOS machine to Candidate B could these critics prove their claim that the PCOS machine could not be relied upon,” he added.
But Macalintal said that if the critics find nothing wrong with the counting and transmission of votes, then they should admit that their objections have no basis.
“If everything turns out right or no major glitches occur during Monday’s testing, these IT experts and critics of PCOS should be honest enough to admit their wrong impression or analysis of the machines and show their support for the Comelec for a successful, clean and credible election on May 13,” he said.
Macalintal criticized AES Watch for its petition before the UN council on the issue of alleged irregularities in the use of the PCOS machines.
The lawyer said the UNHRC will “most likely” dismiss the petition.
Macalintal said the petitioners should have first resorted to local legal remedies such as the local courts or even petitioned the Supreme Court before seeking international intervention.
“Considering petitioners’ omission, their petition will be dismissed by the UN for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies,” Macalintal said.
The lawyer also said there could be no cause for action against the Comelec or the Philippine government because they never curtailed the Filipino voters’ right of suffrage.
“The alleged failure of the Comelec to come up with the source code of the PCOS machine does not in any way prevent any Filipino voter from expressing his will through the ballot,” Macalintal said.