Category: news

MGG supports competitive public bidding for 2013 AES; Calls for disqualification of Smartmatic-TIM


MGG supports competitive public bidding for 2013 AES; Calls for disqualification of Smartmatic-TIM

The Movement for Good Governance (MGG), a coalition of reform advocates, joined the urgent call of various citizen groups for a more secure Automated Election System (AES) for the 2013 polls.

MGG, through its Chair, Solita “Winnie” Monsod, expressed the view that Smartmatic-TIM’s track record made entering into another contract with the technology provider simply unacceptable.

“The major technical and procedural lapses during the 2010 automated elections raise serious questions on the credibility of Smartmatic to secure its system against unauthorized network intrusions and unwitting loss of information,” said Monsod.

“A repeat performance by Smartmatic would once again throw into question the integrity of election results. As responsible citizens of this country we cannot allow the voting results to be compromised.”

MGG’s position is based on discussions with its affiliated organizations that were actively involved in monitoring the 2010 automated elections, namely: the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), TransparentElections.Org.Ph, AES Watch, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Tanggulang Demokrasya (TanDem), the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), and Alyansa Agrikultura.

MGG fully supports the recommendation of the Comelec Advisory Committee (CAC) to have a competitive public bidding for the 2013 AES.

The Movement also backs the recommendations of the CAC calling for the adoption of following technical features in the 2013 AES which were not provided by Smartmatic in 2010 AES:

  1. Use of standard and verifiable digital signatures for the machines and personnel and provision for accurate, reliable and universal time stamps;
  2. Appropriately secured machine access facilities and forensics of the hardware;
  3. Availability of on-screen voter verification of his/her vote;
  4. Scanner should store the raw scanned date and provide ballot authentication feature, with printouts showing serial numbers, time stamps and unique machine identifiable features;
  5. Source code and circuit schematics should be open for review, including audit logs.

“We should learn from the lessons of the past lest the vulnerabilities in the AES be used by some unscrupulous operators to manipulate the results of future elections,” said Ma. Corazon Akol of TransparentElections.Org.Ph, who is also the President of the Philippine National IT Standards Foundation (PhilNITS).

“We sincerely hope the Brillantes Commision does not repeat the errors of the Melo Commision,” added Ernest Ordoñez, Chair of Alyansa Agrikultura.

MGG and its affiliates believe that the Comelec should continue to explore a total solution meeting the basic technical requirements of accuracy, reliability, auditability and transparency decreed by the poll automation law.

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News: If machines fail, teachers not ready for manual count

A teacher reviews the manual for a PCOS machine during a trial run Monday at Marikina High School. The device registered “thermal paper error” 20 times, forcing her and other election inspectors to ask for a replacement. MANILA, Philippines—Teachers manning precincts on Election Day will be at a loss on what to do in case the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines still do not function properly.

The teachers are not prepared for manual counting, Abelardo Brutas, secretary general of the Teachers in the Philippine Public Sector (TOPPS, said.

Brutas said one of the hindrances to manual voting is the clustering of precincts. A clustered precinct could have up to a thousand voters.

Manual elections would only be possible if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) restores the original number of precincts, which is quite impossible at this time, he said.

“Definitely, we cannot handle the clustered precincts, where we have to deal with about a thousand voters per precinct,” Brutas said.

A total of 229,020 teachers is to be deployed for Monday’s elections as members of the board of election inspectors.

Even Alkhadam Sakandal, an election supervisor of Zamboanga City, acknowledged that it would be difficult for the Comelec to return to the manual process.

Too late

“Our efforts were focused on automation,” he said.

Sakandal said that even if measures were taken to adopt manual voting as a contingency measure, it was already too late with less than a week to Election Day.

“Besides, we need to appoint more BEIs (board of election inspectors) to go back to the manual process,” Sakandal said.

In Basilan, the local Church-backed watchdog group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said reverting to manual counting would be confusing.

Fr. Santiago Agoo, PPCRV chair in Isabela City, said nobody had expected the glitches to occur because both the Comelec and Smartmatic had issued assurances the machines were working fine.

The Comelec has halted the deliveries of the machines to the provinces and ordered a recall of the compact flash cards after tests showed that the names of local candidates would not be recognized by the machines.

“We didn’t expect this to happen. We are all geared up for automation and we still do not know how to go about [manual counting] if automation will not push through,” Agoo said.

He said going back to the manual process at this time “will be very tedious, very dangerous and logistics wise, we cannot cope with.”

But Education Undersecretary Franklin Sunga said the teachers were prepared to do their job in case the Comelec holds special elections in far-flung areas, or reverts to manual count.

No guidelines

The Comelec has not issued guidelines for manual counting, Sunga said.

“There are still no guidelines. There is a need for guidelines before we can proceed with this. But we cannot say that our teachers will not know what to do because there are no guidelines,” he said.

Besides, Sunga added, the counting by the PCOS machines would be automated and the election results would be electronically transmitted, saving time and avoiding ballot-snatching.

Helen Aguila-Flores, the Comelec head in Western Mindanao, however, said the agency had no alternative to automation.

“I am sorry to say this, but the Comelec has no contingency measures if automation failed,” Flores said at Thursday’s meeting of civilian, police and military officials at the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

“That Comelec has no contingency plan in case automation fails is a reality that I want everyone to wake up to,” she said. “Hopefully, we can cross the bridge when we get there.”

News: A “simple and effective guide” to evaluate your candidates MANILA, Philippines – Still in doubt about your choice of candidates for the May 10 presidential elections? This voter’s scorecard might help you come up with that intelligent, no-regrets decision.

Launched on Friday as the first of its kind in Philippine politics, the scorecard provides “simple and effective guide” to evaluate candidates based on three Es – effectiveness, empowering, and ethical leadership.

The criteria were initiated by the Movement for Good Governance (MGG), a non-partisan, multi-sectoral citizen’s movement, to help voters make the wise choice.

“Instead of saying we want this senator or presidential candidate because we know him or because he is popular, the voters can use the scorecard to evaluate if the candidate has the competence, integrity and care for the poor. We encourage people to evaluate each candidate based on the scorecard,” said Milwida “Nene” Guevarra, one of the convenors of the group.

In a news conference, Guevarra said that voters could assess the candidates based on the three leadership criteria and grade them with 1 (poor), 2 (good), 3 (very good).

Instead of bringing a sample ballot on election day, Guevarra said voters could instead bring their scorecard to guide them in choosing who to vote.

“That way, [our vote] is not dependent on who gives us the sample ballot, but it will depend on how we have evaluated the candidates in terms of the way we feel they are in terms of criteria that we can agree with,” she said, stressing that the scorecard then becomes an empowering tool for the citizens.

The scorecard, which has English and Filipino versions, was crafted using local and international governance benchmarks from Gawad Galing Pook, the World Bank, and the United Nations. It was polished after a series of workshops with multi-sectoral groups, and then finalized with the help of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), the country’s leading human resource organization.

Guevarra said the scorecard looked at the candidates’ effectiveness or their ability and track record to perform their duty; empowerment, or the candidates’ ability to unite and engage sectors to develop and implement policies and programs that meet the genuine needs of the people; and ethical, which affirms the need for the candidates’ integrity and character.

She said the scorecard has been tested in several schools, where students were asked to choose their presidential candidates first without the scorecard, then listen to a debate of the candidates, and then grade them using the scorecard.

“You can see that there’s a very, very big change in their choice. For example, initially [Senator Francis] Chiz [Escudero] did well, then after the debate and after the students saw the scorecards, they go for [Senator Richard] Gordon,” Guevarra said.

“You can see that people get to be influenced by criteria so when you tend to focus their choices on criteria, their choices differ and what they really want for their choice is to be sound and based on good characteristics,” she added.

Escudero eventually did not pursue his presidential bid.

With 10 days to go before election day, MGG hopes the scorecard can help make the voters choose the right public servants.

News: Manual count rule out today; issues cited

BusinessWorld Online: THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) releases today its unanimous decision on the proposed parallel manual count for national and local positions, with officials hinting an adverse ruling.

“It is not the number of positions involved… Is it proper? Is it legal?… It is of doubtful legality,” said Comelec Chairman Jose A. R. Melo in an interview.

Comelec spokesman James Arthur B. Jimenez said in a separate interview the unanimous verdict considered the input of the commission’s field officials who will conduct the count.

For his part, Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento said that their field officials were against the proposal due to operational and logistical concerns.

Aside from field official feedback, he said the Comelec Adivsory Council’s (CAC) opinion was also considered.

CAC member Ramon C. Casiple earlier said that the parallel manual count should be conducted by an independent body such as the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and not by the Comelec.

But Mr. Sarmiento said the parallel count goes against the principles of the random manual count (RMA) as provided for under the automated election law or Republic Act 9369.

“[The law] does not forbid [or] allow [parallel manual count]. [But] it goes against the principles of random manual audit… [In] parallel manual count, all would be counted. Random would be selective. The process is different,” Mr. Sarmiento said.

In a minute resolution of the full commission meeting last April 5, the poll body increased the number of precincts that would be subjected to RMA to five per legislative district from one as provided for by law.

A total of 1,145 precincts would be audited for 229 legislative districts, the resolution read.

Representatives of various groups such as the Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Bar Association of the Philippines and information technology professionals held a dialogue with the full commission last Monday to present their proposal for the parallel manual count.

In a letter submitted to the Comelec, the groups said April 29 is the cutoff date to decide on whether or not to hold a parallel manual count.


Meanwhile, Namfrel council member Maricor K. Akol said in a separate briefing that the group is willing to trim the positions covered by the manual count to one — the president — from three to include the vice-president and a local position.

“If they are saying that it is going to be expensive and will delay the proclamation, we are willing to bend what we are demanding and limit it to just one candidate,” she said.

Ms. Akol said the law is silent on the random parallel count of votes.

“The Comelec has argued originally that there is a legal bar in this proposal. If you recall, when they said that they used the wrong UV (ultraviolet) ink, their solution was to buy UV lamps to manually verify what was originally an automated activity. They decided on this matter without the benefit of the law. They purchased 80,000 handheld UV lamps to manually verify the ballot. This is the same principle in the parallel manual count,” Namfrel council member Guillermo M. Luz explained.

The commission, he claimed, is printing manual forms for 30% of all the precincts in case there is a failure of automated polls. “What we and the IT professionals are suggesting is for them to already print forms for 100% of the precincts for this verification run.”

The Namfrel has also called for the release of the final guidelines for the random manual audit which have been left pending at the Comelec technical committee.

“We have been asking the Comelec for the GI (general instructions) because this will be the guidelines and basis of the Board of Election Inspectors to proceed with the parallel verification run,” said Namfrel national chairman Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.

In a related development, all precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for Visayas and Mindanao have been shipped out from the main warehouse in Laguna province east of Metro Manila, while over half (57%) of the machines assigned for Luzon have been delivered, Comelec said.

A total of 17,077 units were sent to Visayas while 18,202 were delivered to Mindanao.

As of 10 a.m. of April 27, the official ballots deployed totaled 3,594 (21%) for Visayas and 12,936 (71%) for Mindanao.

The ballots are either in transit or have been delivered to the provinces and municipalities.

News: Comelec rethinks manual poll count

The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said that it needs more time to decide on whether it would conduct a parallel manual count for the country’s first automated elections on May 10.

It was reacting to a proposal from the elite Makati Business Club (MBC) for such count, whose implementation it said might be harder than it looked.

James Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, referred concerned groups and citizens pushing for the manual tally to logistical and administrative factors that the MBC proposal entails.

“It’s not a simple matter of just saying, ‘we want to do this and, therefore, tomorrow it will be done,’” Jimenez said.

“Hindi ito simpleng bagay lamang. Sino ba naman ang may ayaw ng karagdagang seguridad? Sino ba naman ang may ayaw ng karagdagang validation dun sa resulta? Ngunit ang problema ay ang parallel manual count ay isang masalimuot na activity na kailangan ng maraming elemento na magtutugma para siya gumana ng maayos [The manual count is not a simple matter. Who would reject tightened security for the votes? Who does not want additional validation of the results? The problem is that the parallel manual count is a labyrinthine activity that requires many elements for it to work effectively],” he added.

A factor that the Comelec has to look into, Jimenez said, is how the parallel manual count would impact on other activities of the poll body for the Philippines’ first nationwide automated polls.

The MBC proposed that members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) manually count the votes for the positions of president, vice president and any of these three local elective positions—governor, congressman or mayor.

The parallel manual count was proposed by the Information Technology (IT) community, which cited the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines having lost the necessary security measures such as digital signature and ultraviolet markings.

“Even if it takes one hour or three more hours and some tens of millions of pesos, it [conduct of parallel manual count] is a step well worth taking because credibility is extremely important in these elections,” MBC Chairman Ramon del Rosario said.

If the difference between the results of the manual count and the count by Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines is 1 percent or less, the BEI can immediately transmit the results. But if the difference is more than 1 percent, then, the proposal is to request full manual count for all the elective positions.

MBC Executive Director Alberto Lim said that the tolerance level of the errors is 1 per 20,000 ballots.

In time and motion studies conducted by the business club, there will be three additional hours for conducting the parallel manual count. If there are discrepancies in the ballots in a precinct, a full manual count for that precinct will be conducted, giving an additional two days for the canvassing of votes.

Financial aspect

Lim said that they are not against the automated elections in May, they just want assurance that the PCOS machines will be accurate.

The additional step for a parallel manual count will cost an additional P500 million, much of which will be allocated for the extra hours put in by the BEIs.

Comelec officials said that the financial aspect is not the main consideration since there are other factors that the poll body must consider.

The Philippine Bar Association said that it agrees with the MBC proposal for the parallel manual count not just for three positions but five.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that the commission en banc would make a decision on the MBC proposal in the “next few days.”

What a consumer group simply wants is for the Comelec to clarify whether the conduct of a parallel manual count is feasible.

The poll body on Sunday reportedly said that “it was too late to resort to a parallel manual count” but on Monday also reportedly said that “it had not ruled out the same.”

“This is certainly confusing and it not only erodes the public’s confidence in the automated elections but also highlights Comelec’s lack of transparency with regard to its state of preparedness,” Raul Concepcion, Consumer and Oil Price Watch (COPW) chairman, said in a statement also on Monday.

“This latest flip-flopping only reinforces COPW’s doubts that the automated elections will work,” Concepcion added.

He said that the Comelec should immediately finish distributing some 50 million ballots to the 77,000 clustered precincts and mailing sample ballots with precinct

Concepcion added that the poll body should assure the public that the 82,000 PCOS machines would work during the elections.

During a radio interview also on Monday, Malacañang deputy spokesman Gary Olivar said that the parallel manual count, if allowed by the Comelec, will be useless since the law mandates that it is the results of the automated polls that must be followed.

“A parallel manual count will not help the stability of the elections. The automation of the coming elections is there precisely to address all the problems in a manual system,” Olivar added.
Instead of criticizing the Comelec in the conduct of the automated polls, according to him, the public should support the poll body.

“We have to make up our mind. Once we decide [on automation], let’s go ahead with it. Let’s support the Comelec,” he said.