Quantcast

With Due Respect

Legality and technology

By

The less-than-perfect results of the mock elections conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reignited legal and technological controversies. Despite some glaring glitches, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. pronounced the make-believe polls a success. He assured the public that all the defects were “minor” and could in time be addressed satisfactorily.

Same old problems? Not satisfied with this assurance, several poll watchdogs, notably Kontra Daya and the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg), complained that the same glitches that attended the 2010 polls marred the mock polls, showing that the Comelec has not learned its lessons and is not ready for the 2013 elections.

The mock polls were conducted in 20 voting centers in 10 areas nationwide. Some of the glitches are the failure of some PCOS machines to read ballots, delay in starting the machines, defects in electronic transmissions, and problems in inputting the pin codes.

The CenPeg identified 30 vulnerabilities of the PCOS system with 30 proposed safeguards, which the Comelec allegedly ignored. The CenPeg’s Bobby Tuazon lamented, “Since 2010, we have provided the Comelec with documents and cases of program errors. They had three years to prepare, assess and plug the loopholes but it is unfortunate that they are beginning to realize the problems just now.”

These vulnerabilities include PCOS machine malfunctions, defective compact flash cards, transmission glitches, canvassing connectivity problems, uncertified source codes, counting inaccuracies, long queues of voters due to wrong precinct clustering, vote-buying, violence and other irregularities.

Legality assured. In exasperation, Brillantes replied that if our people will not accept the PCOS automated system, then the Comelec would revert to manual election, sighing: “If they want to replace the PCOS, we should just go back to manual because we have no more time to conduct a new public bidding to procure another automated election system.”

Recently retired Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento averred that the Supreme Court has already overruled the critics’ objections and the PCOS system can no longer be legally challenged.

Thus, Roque vs Comelec (Sept. 10, 2009, penned by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.) held that (1) pilot testing in the Philippines is not a condition precedent for full election automation, it being sufficient that the PCOS system procured by the Comelec had been tested abroad; and (2) the PCOS machines meet the minimum capabilities standards set by the law (Republic Act No. 8436).

Capalla vs Comelec (June 13, 2012, penned by Justice Diosdado M. Peralta) upheld the option-to-purchase agreement entered into between Smartmatic and the poll body, it being sufficient that Smartmatic agreed to fix the “alleged defects, glitches and infirmities” of the PCOS machines after they are actually purchased by Comelec.

Finally, CenPeg vs Comelec (Sept. 21, 2010, penned by Justice Roberto A. Abad) directed “the Comelec to make the source codes for the AES (automated elections system)… immediately available to CenPeg and all other interested political parties or groups for independent review.”

However, in a subsequent resolution dated April 12, 2011, the high court clarified that the Comelec can, prior to releasing the source codes, require CenPeg (1) to sign a nondisclosure agreement, (2) to submit its methodology for review, (3) to conduct the review in a restricted facility on a read-only basis, (4) not to take out the code or any part thereof or bring copying equipment, and (5) to submit to the Comelec a report after the review.

The high court stressed that the source codes remain the private intellectual property of Smartmatic, and that CenPeg cannot demand the same conditions for review that the Comelec allowed SysTest Labs, the international company that conducted the source code review that the law required as part of the process for completing the source code preparation.

I think that all these rulings are anchored on the entrenched legal doctrine that, absent grave abuse of discretion, the judiciary defers to the factual finding and technical expertise of specialized government agencies like the Comelec.

Constructive dialogue. Though the Comelec has won the legal wars, it should not belittle the observations made in good faith by the poll watchdogs. After all, Roque vs Comelec said that the high court could not assure “a successful election unmarred by fraud, violence, and like irregularities… Neither will it guarantee… the effectiveness of the voting machines and the integrity of the counting and consolidation software imbedded in them.”

Quite the contrary, the high court called on “all advocates of orderly and honest elections, men and women of goodwill, to smoothen the way and assist Comelec personnel in addressing the fears expressed about the integrity of the system.”

The automation system could be likened to a giant, state-of-the-art ship. Though legally certified as seaworthy, it can still totter and sink. Look at some of the mightiest ships: the “unsinkable” Titanic crashed into an iceberg on its first voyage; the proud US warship Guardian ran aground in the Tubbataha reef; and the luxury ferry Doña Paz ran afoul in bad weather.

In sum, I believe that in the spirit of transparency, not of faultfinding or nitpicking, and to minimize glitches and assure credible elections, the Comelec should heed the high court’s exhortation and continuously engage its critics in constructive dialogue. Legality does not guarantee technology.

* *  *

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=46587

Tags: 2013 Elections , artemio v. panganiban , CenPeg , Center for People Empowerment in Governance , Comelec , Elections , opinion , politics , Technology , With Due Respect



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Obama rejects notion that trade deal is in danger
  • [VIDEO] No assurances on Janet Lim-Napoles’ bid to become state witness
  • South Sudan president fires long-time army leader
  • Grenade explodes outside MPD Station 1
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Marketplace