Smartmatic faces suit over missing source code | Inquirer News

Smartmatic faces suit over missing source code

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering filing a case against Smartmatic International for failing to release the “source code” for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines—but only after the elections, if at all.

Smartmatic, the Comelec’s technology provider for the May 13 elections, had an obligation to provide the source code but failed to do so after the company had a falling out with its partner, Dominion Voting Systems, said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.

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“Our contract is very long. Definitely, there were obligations that were not fulfilled,” Brillantes said in an interview.

However, he stressed that the Comelec still needed to study the matter further and would decide only after the elections.

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“I don’t want this blown up because Smartmatic is still helping us with the preparations for the elections. I don’t want to complicate matters with just 18 days to go before the elections,” he said.

It won’t happen now

“It will not happen now. After the elections, that’s the time we will study their liability and see who is at fault. It would be ugly if we focus on this now,” Brillantes said.

The source code is a set of computer instructions written in human-readable computer language that regulates the operation of the computer that scans and counts the ballots. The election law provides that the source code be certified or examined by a third party of computer experts.

The Comelec had designated the firm SLI Global to review the source code but its certification could not be released officially because Smartmatic, the PCOS provider, had a falling out with its erstwhile partner and automated technology supplier, Dominion, whose approval is needed before the code can be released.

Brillantes said on Tuesday that the May 13 elections may have to proceed without the source code for the PCOS machines. He said there was little or no time left to review the source code even if Dominion were to release it soon.

Meanwhile, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has written the Comelec concerning its apprehensions about the reliability of the PCOS machines, based on reports from the field.

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Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo, Namfrel national chairperson, said Namfrel volunteers who attended several PCOS demonstrations noticed numerous glitches and had raised concerns about the reliability and performance of the 77,829 PCOS machines.

“We know that the Comelec is trying its best to ensure that the preparations for the May 13 elections include the operation-worthiness of the PCOS machines,” she said in a letter to Brillantes.

“We enjoin you to have your technical staff double-check the capability of the PCOS so that the elections will run smoothly from voting to transmission,” she said.

Bernardo said she wanted to bring to Brillantes’ attention Namfrel’s concerns about “the capability of the PCOS machines to initialize, operate and transmit the results on Election Day.”

“We are receiving reports from our provincial chapters about the preparations for the coming elections, and this is one of the areas that we feel we have to raise a red flag on,” she said.

Mock election glitches

She said any malfunctioning of the PCOS machines could pose problems like congestion and long queues in the precincts, voluntary disenfranchisement for voters who do not have the time or patience to wait, the possibility of a low election turnout, and frustration for both board of election inspectors (BEIs) and the voters.

The main bases for Namfrel’s concerns are the glitches that occurred during the mock elections that the Comelec conducted on Feb. 2. Namfrel had posted observers in 17 out of the 20 mock election sites.

“The initialization of the PCOS machine took more than an hour in Baseco, Tondo, Manila; there were no available technicians to assist the board of election inspectors. The BEI had to call the Comelec office in the city to get step-by-step instructions on how to get the machine started,” Bernardo said.

She said the PCOS machines malfunctioned in a number of places and had to be replaced, “ballot rejection” being the problem most often cited.

“This happened in UPIS, Quezon City; and Bato, Camarines Sur. The PCOS machine performed initially but stopped after accepting a few ballots at

Edsa Elementary School in Manila,” Bernardo said.

“Delays were observed for more than an hour before the BEI could transmit the results. The BEI had to go to a suitable location (e.g. the upper floor of the school building) to get a signal from the network provider,” she added.

Bernardo said this happened in Cagayan de Oro Central School, UPIS in Quezon City and two precincts in Camarines Sur.

She said failure of transmission was observed in a number of places such as Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; Iriga City and Bato in Camarines Sur; and Dumaguete City.

What is Plan B?

Bernardo also noted that at a demonstration during the

Namfrel national assembly on March 2, the PCOS machine failed to accept ballots.

“During the training of the board of election inspectors in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, the PCOS failed to function. In the designated Comelec demo center (for voters’ education), the PCOS failed in Cubao and in Davao,” Bernardo said.

“During the overseas voting in Hong Kong, the PCOS refused to accept ballots,” she added.

Bernardo also said the results of the random manual audit at  UPIS, Quezon City, showed 15 variances between the manual count and the PCOS count.

She said the Comelec should share with its citizens’ arm volunteer groups its contingency plan, or “Plan B,” in case the automated elections fail so that these election watchdogs could make themselves ready for it.

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TAGS: Commission on Elections, Elections, PCOS machines, Smartmatic, Source Code
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