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Defective data cards for poll machines recalled

Comelec suspends testing of PCOS machines

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:01:00 05/04/2010

Filed Under: Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Computing & Information Technology, Inquirer Politics

MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Smartmatic-TIM has recalled all defective compact flash cards of precinct count optical scans machines Tuesday, following the reported problems encountered in several machines across the country.

Smartmatic-TIM Asia Pacific president Cesar Flores told a press conference that testing of all PCOS machines has also been suspended until Thursday.

Flores said that these compact flash cards encountered problems on the ?configuration,? which was a ?human error.?

?There were some compact flash cards that carried mistakes on the configuration file and, therefore, the PCOS was not able to locate correctly to which candidates certain positions were. This is random,? Flores said.

Flores further explained that ?wrong instructions? were loaded into these problematic compact flash cards, leading to problems discovered during the testing and sealing process, just a few days before Monday?s nationwide balloting.

Flores noted that the errors and the problems only came out during the counting for local positions. This, he explained, was because candidates for local elections have double spacing on the ballot format.

?Why is it [the problem] only happening in the local and not on the national ones? As you can see, this is a local ballot, and the local ballot has double-spacing. So what's going on is if you mark the first row, it will be read correctly. But for some reason, the configuration is telling the machine that the candidate that is here on the second row is actually on the third row so it will read this candidate as a blank space,? he said.

?It's a human error,? Flores added.

While Smartmatic-TIM and the Commission on Elections have yet to determine how many of these compact flash cards were being recalled, Flores said, ?We're actually preparing a plan as if we have to replace all of them.?

The replacement compact flash cards would arrive by Wednesday.

"It is a tight schedule but it will be done. It can be done," Flores said when asked if schedule permits, with less than a week to go before election day on May 10.

Despite criticisms and fears by several groups, Flores assured that there would be no cheating with the automated elections.

?Many people were banking and saying that this system could lead to massive fraud or cheating because you could not verify it. But this is actually what we did, the BEIs (board of election inspectors) were able to check if the system was counting correctly and they will do again once we send the new cards. They will redo the testing and sealing and they can verify if the system is counting correctly,? Flores said.

?This is the pre-verification of the system and the post-verification is the one that will be done through a random manual audit after the elections. We have always maintained that this is an auditable system that you can always count and compare the results through a manual count and check against the electronic results,? he added.

For his part, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that the Comelec has ready contingency plans in case of problems with the PCOS machines come election day.

?We have back up plans, contingency plans, and of course we have said in the past that 30 percent would serve as a back up for manual purposes,? he said.



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