PCOS machines: the enigma of vertical lines and cramped warehouse (Part 1 of 2)

By Jose Carlos Maningat , as originally posted at PCOS machines: the enigma of vertical lines and cramped warehouse (Part 1 of 2)

Time is running out for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as it continues to dilly-dally on whether or not the highly defective precint count optical scan (PCOS) machines will be used again for the 2016 elections. With just less than 800 days left, it may really be too late to procure, test and administer a new technology for the upcoming elections, which means the country is settling with the same piece of junk worth P1.8 billion from foreign firm Smartmatic.

We can expect history to repeat itself in 2016 – not as tragedy, not as farce but as complete deception of an entire generation.

At the current scheme of things, the black counting junk is even more being rendered as junk as the 80,000 machines are now cramped in a much smaller warehouse somewhere in Laguna, thanks to Comelec’s decision to move it out from its original warehouse. Is this a premonition of more Election Day errors in 2016?

We all became too familiar with the machine breakdowns, transmission failures, and other technical glitches which the PCOS machine is capable of, so much that we could almost hear Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes describing it as a new normal in Philippine elections. The 2013 PCOS errors were too familiar that it would appear that the 2010 polls was a grand rehearsal of the technical errors in last year’s polls. In the final preparations for the 2013 elections, Brillantes tried to assuage the public’s concern over the counting machines, inviting Dominion Voting Systems to display a CD allegedly containing the source code. The publicity stunt stopped at that, keeping a supposed source code review off-camera and off-limits to concerned watchdogs.

What we don’t know until recently is another mind-boggling PCOS error that could have messed up the 2013 election results. A technical team of experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which reviewed the results of the random manual audit (RMA) found out that vertical lines are present in the scanned ballot image. The DOST report, which I obtained from poll watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) and was released last Dec. 10, noted that the vertical line affected the machine’s reading of shaded ballots.

“Visual inspection of ballot images revealed a vertical line that runs through the length of images, and in some cases over the shading ovals for the votes. The line in digitized ballot images could be seen in either of four (4) columns depending where the lines marked,” the technical team said in its report. The team evaluated 5,734 ballot images from precints in Makati, Las Pinas, Dipolog City, San Agustin (Surigao del Sur), New Lucena (Iloilo), Candon City (Ilocos Sur), Cordoba (Cebu), Cebu City, Bacoor (Cavite), and Kalilangan (Bukidnon).

DOST’s technical team made the following observation of PCOS machine’s interpretations of the mark:

·       Line that ran over shading ovals without votes was read as votes.

·       Line that ran over shading areas with votes was read as votes for shaded oval.

·       Line that ran over areas outside the shading ovals gave no effects to votes.

·       Line that ran over shading ovals without votes was not read as votes.

With such machine interpretations, the team said the vertical lines resulted in 1) additional votes for candidates even if there were no votes for the candidate 2) loss of votes for candidates who received votes, which were not counted because the line caused an overvote.

Again, it was the DOST’s technical team which revealed the “vertical line” error of PCOS machines, not the usual watchdogs which Brillantes is so eager to blackmail. Can the poll body chief come up with a sound explanation sans bashing this time?

The enigma of vertical lines now adds fuel to suspicions of technical manipulation of the 2013 elections as shown by the 60-30-10 voting pattern up to the precint level as found out by AES Watch IT experts. Were the vertical lines pre-positioned to produce additional votes for favored bets and to eliminate any vote for non-favored bets? Or were the lines purely accidental?

To be continued in Part 2


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