NEVER AGAIN TO SMARTMATIC's PCOS MACHINES
We are the same stakeholder citizens' groups from the academe, church and interfaith, professionals, industry, farmers and workers', women and children rights' advocates, Moro and indigenous people, policy study think tanks, and election watchdogs that had patiently monitored and studied the preparations and the conduct of the first nationwide election automation in the May 2010 synchronized polls.
We made various individual and collective efforts to help the Commission on Elections (Comelec) push through with the last national elections. Alerted, however, by the vulnerabilities of the election system they were going to use, we pushed for the proper safeguards and security measures compliant with Philippine laws and industry standards. These were unheeded. With the internal defects of the Smartmatic system left uncorrected, we warned candidates and political parties that in order to win the automated elections convincingly, credibly and without fierce poll protests from their rivals, they have to win by a wide margin, in fact by as many as five (5) million votes in the case of the presidency.
Consequently, post-election studies and investigations including those of the 14th Congress found the Smartmatic's PCOS technology as being, among others, fraught with technical breakdowns, transmission failures, a big number of disenfranchised voters – from 4-7 million – and the number of election protests (many automation-related) bigger than in previous manual elections. We are now more certain that the Smartmatic's election system is inherently flawed and, if used again, will further compromise the overarching needs for accuracy, reliability, and trustworthiness in elections.
Smartmatic, the Venezuelan marketing company contracted to provide the election computer program and machines at P7.2 billion for the May 2010 elections, and the Comelec, composed mainly of lawyers with a serious lack of IT competence, continue to ignore these independent studies and assessments. Instead, under the new Chairman, Atty. Sixto Brillantes whose former law firm partner provided legal services for Smartmatic, the Comelec decided en banc last February 1 to purchase and use the same fatally-flawed PCOS machines and technology in the coming ARMM elections scheduled in August 2011.
The Comelec continues to turn a blind eye to the fact that Smartmatic can never comply with Philippine laws because it is another foreign company - Canadian and US-based-Dominion Voting Systems - that owns and can solely decide to release or not for independent review of political parties and interested groups, the election computer program including the source code. In an official letter Dominion Voting Systems, according to the IT consultant of Chairman Melo and now Chairman Brillantes, does not, and will not, authorize Smartmatic, the contracted party of Comelec, to release the source code to other interested parties including political parties. Such is contrary to RA 9369 and a defiance to the May 6 and September 21, 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court on the petitions of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, etal, and of CenPEG respectively, compelling the Comelec to release the source code and other vital election documents that would help further validate earlier findings that the Smartmatic PCOS is fatally flawed and should never be used in any Philippine election again.
Dominion Voting Systems is the same Canada-based company that provided the election technology in the November 2009 special election for New York's 23rd congressional district which saw many software problems in the machines, particularly “for races that allow voters to vote for more than one candidate.” In the following election of 2010, the New York Board of Elections junked Dominion Voting Systems which lost a $50 million contract to provide the electronic voting machines in New York. The contract went to rival automation provider, Election Systems & Software, Inc., which ironically, was one of the failed bidders in the Philippine election automation project. This shows that as a sovereign country, the Philippines should not allow its election system to be held hostage to any foreign marketing company and election technology if proven to be highly flawed, more so, non-transparent and accessible to Filipinos especially to the Filipino IT community and major election stakeholders.
We repeat: The Smartmatic's PCOS should not be used again because -
If the ARMM elections are held this year, there is no recourse but to revert to the manual system as resorted to by Comelec in the last barangay elections but with heightened citizen vigilance. However, as was shown in 2008, the use of a new technology remains an option. We are aware of how tedious a manual election process is, that is why we advocate automation of elections and the harnessing of Filipino IT expertise and technology. We trust that Congress could come up with informed recommendations, placing utmost importance to accuracy, transparency, auditability, legality, and trustworthiness above all other considerations, including ensuring the “bread and butter” of the Smartmatic marketing company and its IT, legal and varied consultants who had readily compromised the integrity of automating elections.
Prepared for the Hearing of the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms
w/ Committee on Muslim Affairs/ House of Representatives,
February 16, 2011