Auto polls’ integrity compromised, NBoC finds

Published by rudy Date posted on May 27, 2010

As multi-snafus of Comelec, tech provider are bared

Errors galore by the technical provider as well as the poll body’s incompetence marked the presidential and vice presidential canvassing yesterday, stalling the actual canvassing of votes.

An official of Smartmatic who provided the automated machines, along with the system adopted for the country’s first automated elections, yesterday apologized to the congressional canvassing board for the “erroneous” number of registered voters reflected during the initialization process of the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) server to be used by the National Canvassing Board in the tally of votes for president and vice president.

“I apologize for the error that is presented in the server,” Smartmatic president for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores told the joint congressional canvassing committee yesterday, even as he continued to assure that the data “error” of over 250 million registered voters as recorded in the server “does not have an impact on the individual certificates of canvass.

It was also found by congressional canvassing committee that in many instances, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) allowed the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) to do as they pleased in preparing two certificates of canvass, a separate one for the president, and another for the vice president, even when the Comelec officials claimed were just one CoC, not two.

Lawmakers quizzed the Comelec for having two sets of CoC for the two highest positions as the congressional canvassing committee reconvened to settle questions on the authenticity of the CoCs before starting its count.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that the CoC per area came only from one file but printed in several pages. He claimed that the CoC for one Luzon provinc e was classified only as one document but has 36 pages, as there was pagination.

On the matter of the bloated number of voters, with the data registering some 257 million voters was claimed to be a “program error” which was transmitted to the Senate.

Cesar Flores admitted to this error, but said that this error was only for the national level.

“There was an error in the program. It was adding after per level. When the figure is transmitted to the provincial level, it was added to the figure from the precinct level and so on and so forth,” he said, saying this has resulted in the bloatred numbers of registered voters.

The issue of the two separate CoCs for the two positions was raised by Sen.Aquilino Pimentel and was confirmed by Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino.

“Comelec sent two separate CoCs were sent to the office of our Senate president,” said Pimentel questioning why there were separate CoCs instead of one.

While Tolentino tried to justify the two separate CoCs were in fact a single document printed in two pages, lawmakers pounced on him after the document showed each has its own date and timeline of printing and sets of thumb marks.

“Obviously and definitely there are two sets of CoCs regardless of what you say there is one printing,” House Majority Leader Art Defensor told Tolentino. “A deed of sale may consist of 100 pages depending on nature of contract but each page can’t stand independently of the other.”

“But these two CoCs, both are signed, thumbmarked by boards of canvassers. Can this be taken separately? And canvass separately?”

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon took note of the different timeline of the two CoCs.

“The two CoCs show two different times of print. The CoC for the president was printed at 1:11 p.m. but if we look at the form for VP, it was printed 1:15 p.m.,” said Biazon.

Meanwhile, Nograles, reacting to boastings from Smartmatic their machines are fool-proof, dared Comelec to do a random manual audit for the May 10 poll results.

“Since Smartmatic has publicly challenged the candidates that their machine is indeed hack-free and tamper-proof and that there is a trail to follow and check and they are willing to open the ballot and do manual count to check the truthfulness of their transmission of the results, I think it would be prudent for the Comelec to allow the random sampling and to allow random manual physical count of ballots cast especially suspected to have been tampered victims of pre-determined results,” said Nograles. “That would put an end to all protests and speculations about the credibility of this automated elections.”

“The ball is in the Comelec court. They can allow it by mere resolution en banc.”

Nograles also raised concerns about Smartmatic technicians accessing the program and making changes to the server in the Senate.

“This reveals that machines are being touched when they are not supposed to be touched,” he said.

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile also voiced the same concerns, and demanded that the Comelec, as well as Smartmatic give the canvassing committee a full report on just which technicians were sent by Smartmatic to identify them, and asked why the Senate was not sent any copy of the committee report, even when this was already agreed upon earlier.

Senator Pimentel called the program error “horrendous,” saying it would have resulted to more serious implications had Congress not checked on this.

As of press time, Enrile zeroed in on the absence of digital signatures of the BEIs on the election returns.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento insisted that there was no need for the BEIs to imprint their digital signatures as the PCOS machines have their own digital signatures.

But Enrile stood his ground, saying that the e-commerce law, in authenticating the digital signatures, insisting that the e-commerce law was not being followed.

The Comelec insisted that digital signatures were built-in in the PCOS.

Congress created panels from the Senate and the House composed of nine members each to canvass the votes, along with alternate members.

The Senate panel is composed Senate President Juan Ponce-Ernile, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel, Gregorio Honasan, Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Joker Arroyo.

The House panel is composed of Speaker Prospero Nograles as chairman, majority leader Arthur Defensor, minority leader Ronaldo Zamora, senior deputy majority leader Neptali Gonzales II, senior deputy minority leader Roilo Golez, Representatives Crispin Remulla (Cavite), Didagen Dilangalen (Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City), and Matias Defensor (Quezon City), and Michael John Duavit (Rizal). –Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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