Doubts linger despite Smartmatic AES demo

Published by rudy Date posted on June 1, 2010

Neither the many congressmen who went to the Smartmatic plant in Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao, for a testing of the precint count optical scan (PCOS) machines under controlled surroundings, nor the camp of former President Joseph Estrada were impressed or convinced that the automated election system, as programmed by Smartmatic, has yielded accurate results, and was fraud-free.

A congressional source who witnessed the demonstration in Cabuyao told the Tribune that the demonstration hardly proved anything, even if it was admitted that the four compact flash (CF) cards in the possession of the Parish Pastoral Council or Responsible Voting (PPCRV) taken from the junkyard in Cagayan de Oro, were genuine.

“What we were given was a demonstration of the system under controlled conditions. It was in their (Smartmatic) warehouse. Their technicians were there to operate the system. They (Smarmatic officials) tell us that while one can edit the CF cards, once edited, the machine will no longer accept the card and data from this CF card can no longer be transmitted.“But it should be remembered that Smartmatic controls everything, which means that they could have easily changed the programming of the machines beforehand, to show exactly that which they wanted to show us,” the sources said.

The camp of former President Joseph Estrada, meanwhile, made it clear it is not convinced the machines and the automated system are fraud free, even with a demonstration made by Smartmatic officials amid claims that the recent automated elections were foolproof.

Lawyer Boy imperial, one of Estrada’s lawyers, said that while Smartmatic proved that the PCOS machines would not be able to transmit another election return after another transmission, it bolstered the claim of “Koala Boy” that his group had transmitted ER’s ahead of the genuine ER that should have come from the precincts.

Imperial also said that Smartmatic failed to explain in full the “command instructions for the PCOS machines on how the votes for a particular candidate should be counted.

“While they had shown that the PCOS machines had refused to transmit an ER after an earlier ER has been transmitted, the allegations raised by Koala Boy could still be relevant,” Imperial said yesterday after the House committee on suffrage conducted an ocular inspection of Smartmatic’s warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna.

Imperial also said that Smartmatic had refused to show the “log” of all the transmissions that the Smartmatic server had received during the election.

It had also refused to provide all interested parties the images of all the ballots captured by the CF cards.

“The coordinates for each of the candidates were not also shown,” Imperial said.

A “coordinate” is the exact place of name and the adjacent oval space that has to be shaded.

He said that the log of all the transmissions received by the server and a comparison of the images of the ballots with the ERs for a candidate should also show proof that the counting machines were indeed transmitting the right figures for each candidate.

Another source, who was present during the ocular inspection in Cabuyao, said that Smartmatic officials refused to even try to compare the images of the ballots to a candidate’s ER.

The same source said that Smartmatic also refused to try a “generic” CF card into the PCOS machines.

“This way we could see whether a CF card, not configured by Smartmatic could be used in a PCOS machines,” the source, a lawyer, said yesterday.

Imperial said that a simple test can be done by creating a generic memory card which should be used to scan ballots exactly the same way as the original memory card program and that numeral numbers and letters should be used.

He said that the ballots should be inserted into the PCOS machines using the original memory cards and allow it to give out the results of the counted ballots, adding that a comparison of the results using the generic CF cards and that of the Smartmatic’s CF cards should be done.

Imperial said that they are still not convinced that all the 76,347 CF cards have been retrieved, reconfigured and returned to their respective precincts in four days before the elections.

“Unless there already exist standby memory cards that have already been configured and its destination identified, the delivery of these memory cards in time for the elections is still in question,” Imperial said.

Another congressman, who asked not to be identified just yet, since he will be bringing up this issue when the hearing resumes in the House committee, said that he had gathered the information that there were only some 15,000 cards that were reconfigured and delivered by Smartmatic, not 72,000 CF cards as claimed by the tech provider.

But for House committee chairman Rep. Teodoro Locsin, the plant and system inspection proved that the CF cards are tamper-proof.

But allegations of pre-programming, even to others, are still to be debunked.

While the ocular inspection in the warehouse of Smartmaticin Cabuyao, Laguna bared that the CF cards used in the May 10 polls are indeed tamper-proof, allegations that they were pre-programmed have yet to be debunked.

During the inspection, Smartmatic officials led by Cesar Flores and Heider Garcia demonstrated how CF cards cannot be tampered with as a tampered card will not be read by the PCOS machines.

The PCOS machine rejected the CF card that the Smartmatic technician tampered with in the audit log displaying a message in its LCD which read: “Election file loading error. Unit needs to be shut down. Please press shut down button.”

The same thing happened when Garcia edited the tampered results and placed it back into the automated machine.

The four CF cards intercepted by volunteers of the PPCRV as they were about to be thrown in a dumpsite in Cagayan de Oro City, were also opened during the inspection and it showed it “matched” with that of Comelec’s server.

“The opening of CF card is the indubitable piece of evidence that any sign of fraud will be seen,” Locsin remarked.

“That’s the ultimate proof of the digital signature (that tampered CF cards will not be accepted by PCOS). What is important is that we were able to show the truth. This is scientific evidence. It is impossible to cheat in the system,” Flores reiterated.

However, the demonstration failed to answer allegations of other lawmakers that the PCOS machines could have been fed with pre-programmed CF cards when its original CF cards were found defective and replaced just days before the elections.

Also, last Saturday IT expert Obert Verzola claimed the security of the digital signatures have been compromised as the private key intended for the transmitter had also been known to other people other than the designated transmitter, the chair of the Board of Inspector (BEI) and Board of Canvassers (BoC).

Comelec and Smartmatic have yet to give satisfactory answers regarding these issues.

Meanwhile, a delay in the canvassing of the certificates of canvass for president and vice president is expected even as the members of the National Board of Canvassers (NboC) yesterday continued to ask officials of the Smartmatic on how the PCOS machines worked and how the discrepancies in the dates printed on the certificates of canvass happened.

As of 7:30 p.m. yesterday not one of the ballot boxes containing the electronically transmitted CoCs had been opened and canvassed.

The House had to open and close the session at about 4:00 p.m. to give way to the resumption of the canvassing with its Senate counterparts.

Cesar Flores and Garcia had to bring to the House plenary a small-scale automation setup consisting of three PCOS machines and servers which they used in their demonstration.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel questioned Smartmatic on why they have to ask a lawmaker to sign a non-disclosure agreement when these are same people who are trying to question the process of automation.

“Why ask a member of Congress to sign a non-disclosure agreement,” Pimentel said adding that the non-disclosure agreement could stifle the congressional investigation into Smartmatic.

Rep. Dilangalen grilled Smartmatic on why some election returns (ERs) show precinct results were transmitted several times.

Garcia said the system automatically sends the results to the three destinations all at the same time but when it fails to connect to any of the three, it also automatically tries to resend the data.

He said the system does not pose any problem because the main server only accepts the first data transmission and rejects the succeeding ones.

The transmission of results, which can only be done once per PCOS machine, is undertaken by the Board of Election Inspectors through the use of the “eye button” and the entry of an individual PIN codes.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, for his part, was concerned if the PCOS machines takes digital images of every ballot it accepts since it could be manually counted in case of electoral protests.

Flores said the images are in the machines and this was shown in their demonstration in Cabuyao where they found 600 images in PCOS machines from Cagayan de Oro City where four compact flash cards and other election paraphernalia were found dumped. –Gerry Baldo and Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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