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

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

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

Determining whether or not the vertical line markings on the scanned ballots, as revealed in the 2013 polls random manual audit (RMA), are part of a well-orchestrated plot to rig the results would be very difficult at this point. The lack of proper machine maintenance could be a factor, but only a thorough forensic analysis will answer the mystery, according to IT expert and AES Watch member Nelson Celis. A meta-audit of the RMA results should inquire if the black lines committed by PCOS machines are present across the scanned ballots from the precints sampled from different regions. If so, the possible presence of a pattern that is consistent with the 60-30-10 pattern should be looked at.

Unfortunately though, a belated forensic analysis could be moot as the PCOS machines’ current storage is worse off, almost a year after it was used in the 2013 midterm elections. The 80,000 machines have been transferred to a 7,000-square meter warehouse facility from its original storage site (at 25,089.52 square meters) owned by by Power Serve Inc. (PSI) in Cabuyao, Laguna. PSI had a property dispute with Comelec, as it wants to house the counting machines in its warehouse facility up to 2016 even if the warehousing contract expired on June 30, 2013. Comelec apparently had its way, moving out the machines into a much smaller warehouse which is barely a third of the original warehouse’s floor area.

Who owns the smaller warehouse? Was a public bidding done for the new warehouse lease contract? A look at the procurement page of the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) in the Comelec website will reveal nothing, except for the fact that the panel conducted the bidding for the contract twice.

But what should strike the public hard in the head is the lesson that these counting machines, at its current poor storage and in view of its epic breakdowns in the previous two elections, cannot be used anymore in the 2016 national elections. Even Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III made the recommendation to Comelec to junk the machines and select a new technology.

Touchscreen ballots for 2016?

By some sort of luck, the Comelec chief has finally realized that it’s time to rethink of the erroneous PCOS machines. The caveat though is that Brillantes hinted last month on purchasing direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines or touchscreen ballots for 2016 at a crazy P60-billion price tag. He said the proposal was already submitted to Congress, along with other alternatives.

At the same time, the poll body chief said nearly P7 billion will be needed for the acquisition of new PCOS machines, in case the country will stick with the optical mark reader (OMR) technology. Curiously enough, the cost of purchasing additional PCOS units is way above the P1.8 billion price of the original 80,000 machines. Why is this so? Comelec chief must explain his bizarre cost calculations.

Whatever poll automation technology that will be used, standards should be thoroughly observed. There should be a source code review that is available to both interested political parties and independent watchdogs. Real digital signatures, as specified in the Electronic Commerce Law, must be used in authenticating transmissions – not the machine-generated ones which were used in the previous two elections. Lastly, the principle of secret voting, public counting must be observed. Accuracy and people’s democratic participation in the electoral process should trump the election thrill for speed.

The poll body must be reminded that we have barely two years to prepare for the 2016 elections. So far, news is already out about political party realignments and 2016 potential candidates but the kind of technology that will be used remains unclear. I hope we are not heading yet again into last-minute snafus, debates and dilly-dallying.

Or is the Comelec deliberately killing time either to make the junked PCOS machines inevitable for use in 2016 or to make a new poll automation technology contract necessarily urgent for approval? We can only guess, but what’s clear is that 2016 is just a few laps away.


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