Monthly Archives: March 2010

With a fifth ballot printer, chance of election automation success now up from 25% to 28%

The arrival of a fifth ballot printing machine has eased somewhat the Comelec’s ballot printing problems. Let us look more closely at the problem.

To establish the baseline date, check this story “Ballot printing begins after a half-day delay”, which says that the printing of the ballots started on Feb. 8. So our day count starts from Feb. 8.

On March 10, media reported a story “Slow printing of 50M ballots triggers alarm”. The media report cited a confidential internal Comelec memo by Atty. Emerald Ladra of the Comelec printing committee.

Here’s the most interesting portion of that story:

“In an urgent memorandum dated March 1 to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) project management office, Esmeralda Amora-Ladra, head of the poll body’s printing committee, said that the four NPO machines were not operating at maximum capacity.

“The daily output is disappointing, leading her to suggest that the Comelec should prepare contingency measures, including the printing of ballots for manual elections.

“The memorandum, made available to the Inquirer, noted that as of March 1, some 7.9 million ballots for the electronic balloting had been printed. Of the number, 5.3 million were accepted as “good ballots,” while the rest have yet to be checked.

“Granting that 7,878,480 (printed minus quarantined ballots) are all good ballots, we still have to print a total of 42,845,254 for a period of 54 days. This means, we should be able to have a daily production of 793,430,629, more or less, per day from four printers, which is impossible!” the memorandum read.

“Smartmatic-TIM, Comelec’s joint venture partner in the first nationwide automated elections, has leased to the commission four Kodak VersaMark VL 4000 printers, each capable of printing 200,000 ballots.

“Ladra said the printers’ daily output was only 650,000 or 162,500 each. At this capacity, she said only 34.1 million ballots would be printed by April 25, when the Comelec starts to ship out the ballots. There will still be 8.9 million ballots to be printed.”

Atty. Ladra says that the printers’ daily output is 650,000 (see printer photo above). This is probably the maximum possible, if the printers operate with the minimum of maintenance, and they are printing a single print job. But this printing job involves one ballot design for each city and municipality. That’s 1,630 print jobs over some 80 days, or 20 print jobs a day!

Let’s do our own arithmetic: from Feb. 8 to Feb, 28 (the confidential memo is dated March 1) is 20 days. divide 7.9 million by 20, you get 395,000 ballots a day only. At this rate, the remaining 42.1 million ballots will be ready in 108.4 days, counting from March 1. That’s June 16. No wonder Atty. Ladra exclaimed, “impossible!”.

Since it was a confidential internal memo, I believe Atty. Ladra was telling the truth, as far as maximum printing capacity is concerned: 162,500 ballots per day. A fifth printer was ordered by Comelec to take the slack. Based on the same internal memo, this would raise the maximum capacity to 812,500

As early as Feb. 24, the Comelec was quoted saying the fifth printer will arrive “very soon” (Feb. 24 report here). A Mar. 22 report says it could arrive “any time”. A March 25 reports says it has already arrived and was being installed. By March 29, Smartmatic and the Comelec were reporting higher print throughputs. Hence, sometime March 28 or March 29, the fifth printer must have started running, raising the Comelec’s maximum printing capacity to 812,500 ballots per day.

Let us do more quick arithmetic. If the four printers were running at full capacity (650,000 ballots/day) March 1-28, the Comelec would have been able to print, in addition to the 7.9 million reported in the internal memo, 650,000/day x 28 days or 18.2 million for a grand total of 26.1 million. This is in fact, the official claim (see story here). Although the claim is not credible (because we are talking of 1,630 print jobs, not a single job; and even machines have to pause for cleaning and maintenance), we will grant the Comelec the benefit of the doubt.

Since 50.7 million ballots must be printed, how many days more will the five printing machines take to finish the remaining 24.6 million? Assuming that all the five machines run at their maximum capacity everyday, we simply divide 24.6 M by 812,500: 30.3 days. But the Comelec announced that they will pause printing on Good Friday, so let’s make that 31.3 days. That’s April 29, which misses the original April 25 target. It does meet the delayed April 30 target, but at the expense the ballots and counting machine delivery sub-project, whose own time lines will be clipped by a few days.

If this extremely optimistic ballot printing scenario holds out, we can expect the following printing milestones from the Comelec in the coming days. Any major departure from this schedule will have to be scrutinized carefully:

Mar 28 26,100,000 Apr 08 34,225,000 Apr 19 43,162,500
Mar 29 26,912,500 Apr 09 35,037,500 Apr 20 43,975,000
Mar 30 27,725,000 Apr 10 35,850,000 Apr 21 44,787,500
Mar 31 28,537,500 Apr 11 36,662,500 Apr 22 45,600,000
Apr 01 29,350,000 Apr 12 37,475,000 Apr 23 46,412,500
Apr 02 Good Friday Apr 13 38,287,500 Apr 24 47,225,000
Apr 03 30,162,500 Apr 14 39,100,000 Apr 25 48,037,500
Apr 04 30,975,000 Apr 15 39,912,500 Apr 26 48,850,000
Apr 05 31,787,500 Apr 16 40,725,000 Apr 27 49,662,500
Apr 06 32,600,000 Apr 17 41,537,500 Apr 28 50,475,000
Apr 07 33,412,500 Apr 18 42,350,000

[The Comelec just announced, according to this report, that printing will continue on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. That they are trying very hard to meet their deadlines is both a good and a bad sign. Here’s a portion of the March 30 report:

In an interview with reporters Tuesday, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the printing of the more than 50 million ballots would continue on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

He said stopping production even for a day could lead to a shortfall. The printing is being done at the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City.

He said verification and packing of the ballots would also continue during the two Cahotlic holidays. “If you continue printing but you don’t verify, [there would be a] backlog of unverified ballots,” he said.

The verification of ballots means ensuring that the ballots can be read by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, the technology that will be used in the May polls.

Larrazabal said their decision to continue printing during the Holy Week does not mean they are behind schedule. He said they have already printed about 27 million ballots, with only less than five percent spoilage.]

Luck has so far been on the Comelec’s side. (I hope Atty. Ladra’s 162,500 ballots/day per machine estimate made allowance for spoilage!) But it is an extremely tight schedule, with no room for mistake, accident or machine breakdown, not to mention printing quality issues like misalignments, poor quality prints (which, Smartmatic claims, plagued the printing of ultraviolet security marks), and spoilage.

Given the arrival of the fifth machine, we are upgrading our estimate of the chance of success of the ballot printing sub-project from 80% to 90%. This also raises somewhat the overall chances of success of the election automation project from 25% to .8 x .7 x .8 x .7 x .9 or 28%. (See earlier posts for details.)

It is excruciatingly clear, however, that the Comelec’s luck has to hold out, for it to meet its ballot printing deadline. There is wisdom in the Filipino saying, “Ang naglalakad ng matulin, kung matinik ay malalim.” (Haste makes waste.)

Dateline: “A Briefer on Poll Automation – Why it is Expected to Fail”

The title above is actually the title of an excellent paper on the risk of failure of the Philippine May 10 automated elections prepared by the “Citizens’ Alliance Against Electoral Fraud and Failure of Elections” and posted on the website of Dateline Philippines. The full text is on this Dateline site. [I’ve been told that the updated link is here. I will keep the old site, just in case…]

The paper is a very well-researched piece. It adds flesh to our own analysis at Halalang Marangal that the automated election process has a dismal 25% chance of success.

For several days, the Dateline site was offline, which was puzzling because few people seem to have accessed the site (the site counter said 88, when I last looked at it). The site is online again.

Bypassing precinct election officials in the May 10 automated elections: open invitation to fraud

If there is still doubt whether or not the Philippines is heading towards a chaotic election, Comelec Resolution No. 8786 erases all doubt.

This resolution promulgated on March 4, 2010, is entitled “Revised General Instructions for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) on the Voting, Counting, and Transmission of Results in Connection With the 10 May 2010 National and Local Elections”. It amends or revises earlier Comelec Resolution No. 8739 (the original General Instructions for the BEIs) to “fine tune the process and address procedural gaps.”

This resolution directs the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), the committee of three teachers who run the elections in every precinct, to press “No” when the automated counting machine asks them to “digitally sign the transmission files with a BEI signature key”.

Perhaps I should repeat that to make sure you, dear readers, don’t miss it: the BEIs have been instructed by the Comelec not to digitally sign the electronic ER before it is transmitted to higher level servers for canvassing and consolidation.

The provision is in Sec. 40 of the Revised GI, “Counting of ballots and transmission of results”, page 27.

Here is how Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained why the BEIs were instructed not to sign the electronic ERs: (Read the full story here.)

But Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the instructions did not mean that there would be no digital signatures in the transmission of the votes.

Jimenez said the instructions simply removed one step in the transmission process in order to minimize human intervention and further protect the results of the vote.

The digital signature of the machine is already encoded in the device, he said, and that the digital signature of the BEI is also entered into the machine before the voting.

Signature imbedded

“From the start, the digital signature is already in the machine … Since it is there, the minute the machine stops counting, it starts printing, it starts transmitting. The teacher does not need to enter the process,” Jimenez said.

“That minimizes the possibility of the results being tampered with,” he added.

Jimenez said that the digital signatures would be read by the machines receiving the voting results because they are already in the signal that was transmitted.

The Comelec is apparently still fixated at minimizing human intervention. They still don’t realize (or maybe, they perfectly do?) that it may be possible to minimize human intervention, but never to eliminate it completely. In any automation project, there are always points of human intervention — the design engineers, the programmers, the maintenance or repair technicians, the operators, and and a few others. By minimizing human intervention, they are actually minimizing the number of people that need to be in on a conspiracy, that need to be bribed, or are potential witnesses. In fact, the more people watching what is actually happening, the harder it is to cheat.

With this Comelec resolution, the BEIs have have lost control. They have been sidetracked. The whole automated election process is now completely under the control of a single foreign entity, Smartmatic, and the machines we are leasing from them. They generate the passwords and digital signatures, they encode the digital signatures within the machine (or most probably in a keychain-size device, which is read by a sensor in the counting machine), they transmit the data, and they certify the correctness of the passwords and digital signatures. In a business setting, this is equivalent to merging in a single person the functions of vendor, machine operator, accountant, cashier and auditor — an open invitation to fraud.

Most election fraud are inside jobs. The gaping security breach created by Comelec Resolution No. 8786 has made it much easier for a few insiders to manipulate the results of the May 10 elections.

Question: is this Comelec resolution the product of gross stupidity or malicious intent?

HALAL analysis of the May 10 elections: text version

HALAL analysis: automated election has 25% chance of success

[As of March 31, we have updated our assessment and now put the chance of success at 28%. See this post on the ballot-printing sub-project for details.]

by Halalang Marangal

Last March 8, Smartmatic-TIM full-page ads came out in some national dailies, claiming “a vote of confidence for the 2010 automated elections”, and listing the accomplishments of the five subsystems under the Automated Election System (AES). The five AES subsystems are: 1. Hardware, supplies, consumables; 2. Software, certification, voter education; 3. Logistics, support, preparations; 4. Telecommunications and Transmission; and 5. Ballot printing infrastructure.

Halalang Marangal (HALAL) carefully evaluated these Smartmatic-TIM claims. We have concluded that, in fact, serious problems beset each of the five subsystems, reducing the AES chances of success and creating opportunities for cheats to manipulate the election results, as they had routinely done in the past.

Remember that most election fraud are inside jobs. HALAL is less worried about hackers and other external threats. We are more worried about cheats who have inside access to the various AES subsystems to do what they have always done with impunity under the manual system.

Note also that by “success”, we mean the absence of significant cheating and similar problems that have chronically attended our elections and a canvassing period that is significantly shorter than the manual method. Otherwise, we would still consider the AES a failure. This “failure of authomation” is different from the legalistic term “failure of election”, by which election officials mean that no voting actually occurred. By their definition, if voters were able to cast ballots, then there was no failure of election.

Due to space limitations, we will cover only the most serious of the problems we identified.

Subsystem 1: Hardware, supplies and consumables

Claim: “82,200 PCOS machines [and batteries] manufactured and delivered”. Note the glaring omission – no mention of the number of machines tested and accepted by the Comelec. Due diligence requires that Comelec personnel – not Smartmatic-TIM – thoroughly test each of these machines for compliance with contract specifications. The Comelec should not accept, deploy or pay for machines which do not meet contract specs. Instead, it should ask Smartmatic-TIM to replace these machines.

Can the Comelec finish the testing on time? HALAL convenor and former Comelec Commissioner Mehol Sadain recalls that in 2004, they needed three months to thoroughly test 1,990 counting machines. Given this experience and the Smartmatic delivery delays, thorough testing of 82,200 machines is an imposing challenge indeed. If the tests are rushed – Smartmatic says they are testing 2,000 machines a day — then we risk deploying for May 10 hurriedly tested machines which can fail, reject valid ballots, or scan inaccurately.

Among the tests results, HALAL considers most important the following: failure rates (the machine mean time between failure or MTBF); the rate of rejection of valid ballots; and the scan error rate (less than 5 in 100,000 marks, according to contract specs). The failure and errors rates in the transmission equipment are also extremely important. We have tried asking the Comelec, political parties, as well as election watchdogs if they have obtained any test statistics. Aside from the field tests and mock elections, when media reported inordinately high ballot rejection rates and transmission problems, there seems to be a complete blackout regarding the test results. This is a bad sign.

Consider the implications of secret testing by Smartmatic-TIM: “good” machines can be selectively assigned to some regions and “bad” machines to other regions. This can easily bias voter turnout in favor of some candidates. Not to mention the Comelec (actually the Filipino taxpayer) paying for substandard machines. “Good” and “bad” modems can likewise be deployed selectively, causing more transmission problems in targetted areas.

Claim: “180.640 compact flash memory cards purchased”. Let us do the arithmetic. Some 82,200 PCOS machines will use two memory cards each. So only 164,400 are needed. Since these cards are solid-state devices, their failures rates are extremely low, compared to the PCOS, which include mechanical parts. Smartmatic-TIM bought 20% more memory cards than necessary. These extra cards, loaded with false results, may be surreptiously used to replace the authetic cards.

Given these and other concerns, HALAL assesses the probability of success of Subsystem 1 at 80%. That is actually a generous figure.

Subsystem 2: Software, certification, voter education

Claim: “Source code customization to meet the requirements of the Philippine elections finished”. The source code was actually customized in a way that violates the requirement of election law for voter verification. The PCOS has a built-in feature that displays on screen the names of candidates the voter has marked. Voters can then verify if their voting intentions were accurately interpreted by the machine. If not, they can abort, and feed their ballot again. If it did, voters can then confirm and press the CAST button. This feature is absolutely necessary to assure voters that the machine scanned their ballots accurately.

Smartmatic disabled this feature, taking away the only opportunity for voters to check the scanning accuracy of the machine on election day. Given the blackout in the results of pre-election testing, and the Comelec plan to conduct the post-election audit of machine results after the proclamation of candidates, we have lost all the three opportunities to determine the scanning accuracy of the machines. This is not reassuring.

Claim: “System audit … finished”; “source code public review process opened”. The law required both a system audit – which covers all the five subsystems of the AES – and a source code review – which is specific to the software programs that control the PCOS and the canvassing servers. The Comelec contracted for this purpose the U.S. firm Systest Labs. Last Feb. 9, the Comelec claimed that the system audit and source code review were done, meeting the Feb. 10 deadline set by the law.

Here’s the rub: neither Systest, Smartmatic-TIM nor the Comelec have released to the public any proper certification document. Such a document should state unequivocally that the AES and its five subsystems, as well as the source code, indeed meet the Comelec requirements of quality, reliability and security as specified in detail in the contract with Smartmatic-TIM. Where are these certification documents? Neither has the full report of Systest Labs been released to the public. Without them, we are justified in asking: are the Systest system audit and source code review actually done, or not yet? Comelec insiders have informed us of a “series of written exchanges” between Systest and the Comelec Technical Evaluation Committee on certain concerns regarding the Systest audit and review. What were these concerns? The only way we can be convinced that Systest has actually certified the AES and its source code is for the Comelec to release to the public the certification documents and full reports of Systest.

The Comelec did open the source code review process to the public. But the conditions it imposed are so unrealistically restrictive, that they make it extremely difficult to conduct a proper local review. Surely, the Comelec did not impose the same restrictive terms and conditions on Systest, when the latter conducted their review.

It is important to appreciate why the source code must be open to public review. The source code is Smartmatic’s general instructions to its machines, in the same way that the Comelec issues general instructions to election inspectors and canvassers. Just as it is totally unacceptable for the Comelec to keep its general instructions secret, it is also totally unacceptable for Smartmatic to keep its general instructions to its machines secret. This is a fundamental issue in a democracy. Our election law fortunately recognized this, and required the prompt release of the source code for public review as soon as the technology is selected. As of today, however, due to the restrictions imposed by the Comelec, no local group has yet conducted any review of the source code. Only two foreign companies – Smartmatic and Systest – have so far seen the general instructions to the machines that will determine our political future. Systest took more than four months to conduct its review. Less than two months before the elections, no local stakeholder including political parties or election watchdogs, have reviewed the source code yet. Even if the Comelec should relax its restrictions tomorrow, a proper review is hardly possible anymore. Smartmatic knew about the open source requirement of the law when they submitted their bid and signed the contract with the Comelec, they cannot invoke commercial confidentiality after winning the contract.

Claim: “Successful field tests and mock elections”. We have read the media reports on high ballot rejection rates and well as transmission problems right in Metro Manila. If Smartmatic can misrepresent results this way, what else are they misrepresenting?

Given these concerns, HALAL assesses the probability of success of Subsystem 2 at 70%.

Subsystem 3: Logistics, support and preparations

Claim: “Over 36,000 voting centers surveyed … [for] network signals, power.” etc. Since we have some 48,000 voting centers, that’s 75% of voting centers covered as of March 8.

Claim: “904 testing … employees working two shifts”. Even three shifts is not enough, knowing that 1,990 machines took the Comelec three months to complete their tests. Furthermore, vendor testing is the vendor’s problem. They should have tested these machines in China, before shipping them here. What we want is testing by the Comelec – due diligence. After all, it is our elections, and it is our money that will be paying for the machines.

Claim: “Contracts with logistics providers and forwarders signed.” According to reports by the newspapers Malaya and Daily Tribune, the three forwarders hired by Smartmatic are: Argo Intl Forwarders (P3.7M 2008 retained earnings, 0.42% of 2008 domestic cargo traffic, 11th place)‏; Germalin Enterprises (P2.3M 2006 net income, 0.35% of 2008 domestic cargo traffic, 12th place)‏; and ACF Logistics Worldwide (P1.1M 2008 cash balance; not in the top 30)‏. Given the herculean task they are entrusted with, the financial capabilities of these companies do not inspire much confidence. Smartmatic should release the list of their field offices, so that stakeholders can double-check their capacity for delivering goods on time.

Claim: “Recruitment and training of over 48,000 field support technicians started.” Since the ad came out 60 days before election day, we can only gape in disbelief: “Started”?

Claim: “438 Comelec training personnel certified”. And at least 230,000 elections officials more to train in the next 60 days.

The Comelec needs to make public the results of the Smartmatic survey for signal and power, as well as the distribution of the forwarders field offices. We must be wary of “problems” in delivery, power availability, and signal transmission, lest these be used to selectively affect voter turnout in some regions or provinces, in a way that can bias the outcome of the election.

HALAL – quite generously – assesses the probability of success of Subsystem 3 at 80%.

Subsystem 4: Telecommunications and transmission

Claim: “48,000 modems for transmission manufactured and delivered”. Again, the missing word here is “tested”. If these made-in-China modems can cause transmission problems right in Metro Manila, something could be wrong with their quality. If Smartmatic delivers a mix of good and bad modems, these can be selectively assigned by region or province to cause transmission and other problems in areas where election cheats want to operate.

Claim: “46,000 SIM cards secured”. Only 46,000 SIM cards for 48,000 modems? “5,500 BGAN transmitters purchased” and “680 VSAT transmitters leased”. With the 48,000 modems, these add up to 54,180 tranmitting equipment, enough for 71.8% of the machines. An extremely serious problem actually hangs over the security of the transmission process: instead of an independept body, Smartmatic, controls the entire system of passwords and digital signatures, from generation to certification. In a business setting, this is equivalent to merging in a single person the duties of vendor, operator, accountant, cashier and auditor – an open invitation to fraud.

Claim: “Contract with major telcos … secured.” But Smartmatic’s own survey says the telcos can cover at most 70% of the precincts. If transmission problems can occur even in Metro Manila, as we all realized during the mock elections, what about smaller cities and municipalities?

HALAL estimates the probability of success of Subsystem 4 at 70%.

Subsystem 5: Ballot printing infrastructure

Claim: “Over 10 million ballots with invisible ultraviolet mark and unique barcode printed.” The printing of ballots started on Feb. 8. A confidential internal Comelec memo was recently leaked to the media which said: as of March 1 (20 days after Feb. 8), 7.9 million ballots had been printed. Let us do the arithmetic: 7.9 million ballots for 20 days is 394,000 ballots per day. At this rate, in 60 more days – March 2 to April 30 – some 21.3 million more ballots can still be printed, for a total of 39.2 million, not quite the 50 million needed for a 1:1 ballot-to-voter ratio.

Remember that this is not a single print job, but some 1,600 jobs, because each city/ municipality has its own list of candidates. The Comelec expects to do 20 different print jobs a day over 80 days; practically one print job every hour. Even the scheduling of the print jobs – if done in a biased way – can matter, because the ballots from print jobs scheduled later are in greater risk of late deliveries.

Aside from printing delays, another problem lurks. An important quality issue in any print run is “registration” — the ovals must be printed exactly where the PCOS expects them to be. Any misalignment in the ballot can cause the machine to scan some positions inaccurately, creating a slight bias in favor of one oval versus another. Such misalignments can occur to any candidate (tough luck!), but election cheats can also exploit this to favor some candidates over others.

HALAL has reason to believe that the poor quality of ultraviolet printing is a cause of the inordinate number of rejections of valid ballots by the PCOS. This is probably why the machine’s ultraviolet scanning feature, which helps distinguish authentic from fake ballots, has been disabled, as former Chief Justice Arturo Panganiban revealed in a column. That’s one less security measure election cheats have to worry about.

HALAL estimates the probability of success of Subsystem 5 at 80%.

Let us now summarize our assessment of Smartmatic-TIM’s five AES subsystems:

Subsystem Probability of Success

  • Hardware, supplies and consumables — 80%
  • Software, certification, voter education — 70%
  • Logistics, support and preparations — 80%
  • Telecommunications and transmission — 70%
  • Ballot printing infrastructure — 80%

We now turn to a fundamental principle in project management: to get the overall probability of success of a project, which relies on a series of sub-projects, each of which is essential to the project, the sub-projects’ probabilities of success must be multiplied together. Essentially the same principle is followed in product design and reliability engineering.

Thus a system with five subsystems, each with a 99% probability of success, will have an overall probability of success of .99 x .99 x .99 x .99 x .99 or .95 (i.e., 95%). If each of the five subsystems had a 95% probability of success, the probability of success of the overall system is 77%. (Try it on your calculator!) Five subsystems with a success probability of 90% each will give the overall system a success probability of only 59%. Given the problems we pointed out above, we are not ready to assign such optimistic probabilities to the AES project. If some are willing to give Smartmatic the benefit of the doubt, and assign 80% probabilities of success to each of their subprojects, that is still a 33% probability of success overall, a two-to-one odds in favor of AES failure.

HALAL’s assessment of the subprojects’ chances of success leads to .8 x .7 x .8 x .7 x .8 or a 25% overall probability of success for the AES. Feel free to make your own estimates. The conclusion seems inescapable: the risk of a May 10 AES failure is unacceptably high, especially for an election at this important juncture of our political history when failure should not be an option.

Unfortunately the Comelec appears to remain in denial about these problems. It continues to put up a confident face, pretending that nothing is wrong and everything is going on as scheduled. Yet, the automated elections have so many points of vulnerability that Murphy’s Law will almost surely kick in. Thus, the Comelec needs to prepare every precinct for a back up manual system in case some machines fail or are delivered late, or their replacements don’t come on time, or valid ballots are rejected by the machines, and finally for the legally mandated post-election manual audit. But if the preparations for the automated elections are delayed, those for the manual back up are even more so.

Thus, the Comelec has painted the whole country into a corner. If we are lucky enough, the Comelec may still meet its deadlines. After all, a random throw of two coins does come up with two heads 25% of the time. But the same toss will not have two heads 75% of the time, the same risk of failure facing the automated elections. To prepare for this more probable eventuality, we must now wrack our heads and find a way out of this black hole that automation is threatening us with.

March 28, 2010

The Halalang Marangal (HALAL) convenors are: former Senator Wigberto Tañada, retired General Francisco Gudani, former Comelec Commissioner Mehol Sadain, PRRM president Isagani Serrano, former St. Scholastica’s College president Sr. Mary John Mananzan, TOYM awardee Atty. Ma. Paz Luna, and IT expert Roberto Verzola.

Updated HALAL analysis: automated election has 25% chance of success

I have updated our presentation regarding the chances of success of the May 10 automated elections. I have added details regarding the ballot printing problem, and added to the list of things the Comelec must do to improve the chances of success.

The updated presentation may be downloaded here:

halal-analysis-of-aes-risk-of-failure-as-of-March 23.

Automated elections in the Philippines: 25% probability of success as of March 8

On March 8, Smartmatic came out with full-page ads in several national newspapers, claiming that the Automated Election System (AES) project they are implementing for the Philippine government have the people’s vote of confidence.

We at Halalang Marangal sat down to discuss the ad and realized that all the information contained there, analyzed carefully and taken together, actually meant that as of March 8, the AES probability of success had become unacceptably low. we even tried to be generous in our assessment, and gave the company some benefit of the doubt (where it was possible to do so!), but the numbers still led to a low probability of success.

That parenthetical comment was necessary because I found it incredible that Smartmatic would claim successful field tests and mock elections when media had reported many cases of rejected ballots and transmission problems even in Metro Manila. If Smartmatic can blatantly lie about this in public, then it can lie about anything. Smartmatic has also imposed a blackout on statistics about the scanning accuracy of its machines.

Anyway, I won’t keep you in suspense. You can download the presentation now. (HALAL analysis of AES risk of failure – as of March 20).