Senators: Poll Automation Law has safeguards vs cheating

Published by rudy Date posted on March 14, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Senators maintained there are enough safeguards in the Poll Automation Law against cheating and that doomsayers should just help the Commission on Elections carry out a successful computerized elections in 2010.

“Filipinos are all calling and looking forward to a peaceful, honest and credible conduct of the elections, but, the way some people talk right now, I don’t think they are one with our desire,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in a recent statement.

“We in Congress, the Comelec and those who were once part of the poll body should work together and help make this vision possible instead of casting doubt and finding fault with poll automation,” he added.

Zubiri said the issue of poll automation has undergone a series of hearings, discussions and intense debate by Congress to ensure that the election automation law has safeguards to prevent hacking of the computer system and the precinct optical counting scan which the Comelec opts to use for the May 2010 polls.

As a former Comelec chairman, lawyer Christian Monsod “knows that our primitive electoral system is not only prone to cheating and delays the transmittal and announcement of the results that surely endangers the lives of our teachers and poll officials,” Zubiri said.

He was reacting to Monsod’s warning against automated cheating that might take place in 2010.

“We need to keep up with the times and modernize our election system at the soonest possible time. Otherwise, we will always stagnate and remain in a backward state,” Zubiri said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, author of Republic Act 9369 or the amended Automated Elections System Law, had enumerated at least 16 safeguards required under the law that would ensure the integrity of the polls in May 2010.

Monsod said the precinct counting optical scan, the ballot-based voting and counting system chosen by the Comelec, would not be transparent as it would place the election results in the hands of “software specialists” who could manipulate the votes.

Monsod added that the Comelec should instead consider the open election system espoused by local information technology experts, which he claimed was more transparent.

The minimum system requirements mandated by RA 9369 include adequate security against unauthorized access; accessibility to illiterates and disabled voters; vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite; accurate ballot counters; and data retention provision.

It also mandates accuracy in recording and reading of votes as well as in the tabulation, consolidation/canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results; and error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device; and system integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording and counting process.

RA 9369 requires a source code for the automated election system  to be selected and shall be made available by the Comelec to all interested parties for their review.

The AES Law shall also include a continuity plan in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality which shall result in the delay, obstruction or non-performance of the electoral process.

Gordon said any difference between the automated and manual count would result in the determination of root cause and the initiation of a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error. -– Aurea Calica, Philippine Star

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