Monthly Archives: May 2010

House Committee on Suffrage Minutes of Hearings on Electoral Fraud for May 26, 28 sessions now available

Please get them here.

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House Committee on Suffrage: Minutes of hearings on electoral fraud

Halalang Marangal (HALAL) managed to get the minutes of the hearings being conducted by the House Committee on Suffrage on the May 10, 2010 elections and the fraud allegedly committed to tamper with the results.

The minutes are all in PDF files, so you need to download them first, then use a PDF viewer to read the files.

Download the files here.

Smartmatic claims: “Votes tallied & Presidential Winner known in Record Time in Philippines Election”

The Smartmatic claims below may be found on the Smartmatic website here.

Smartmatic electoral Solution Delivers First Ever national Automated Election in THE Philippines

Largest Election Ever by Private Company: Nearly 80,000 Voting Machines Deployed

Smartmatic voting solution delivers 100% accuracy, reliability and auditability

Manila, Philippines, May 12, 2010 – In the wake of the first automated national election in the Philippines, Smartmatic today announced that its voting solution performed with complete reliability and accuracy. During the election, the machines transmitted accurately, rapidly and reliably, and after the polls closed, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) certified the results, which were accepted by the representatives of the different political parties.

“Today’s election was an important step forward for the Philippines,” said Jose Melo, Chairman at COMELEC. “By automating our voting process we are able to deliver a faster, more transparent and accurate election and final vote tally. The fact that all parties accepted the results, which have been delivered in record time, is a testament to the success of our automated election.”

In the closely monitored election, most voters selected Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as president. The votes were tallied in record time, marking the first-time a victor was known within 12 hours.

Additional Key electoral statistics include:

  • Transmitted Votes: 92% in 24 hours
  • Machine replacement .59% or 486 PCOS out of 76,347
  • First election result report Delivered in 1 hour after closing
  • Overall Voter turn out 80%
  • Electronic Voting machines used: 76,347
  • Time to Cast Vote: Less than 6 minutes
  • Voting Machine Support Technicians: 48,000
  • Geography: 7,107 islands comprising the archipelago

SMARTMATIC SOLUTION: SIMPLIER, FASTER + MORE RELIABLE

The voters in the Philippines used Smartmatic’s voting solution, which was able to significantly reduce the time needed to cast and transmit votes. Upon the closing of the polls, the machines counted the votes within seconds and transmitted the results to the Canvassing Servers. Less than 24 hours later, more than 90% of all the results had been transmitted and tallied.

This marks a drastic improvement from all Philippine elections to date where it often took months before the final election results were delivered. In the past, the long delays in election results frequently led to social unrest, disputed results and fraud allegations.

“The speed, transparency and universal acceptance of the election results is evidence that our electoral solution aides the democratic process,” said Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic.

SELECTED QUOTES:

The following are selected quotes taken from news reports noting officials supporting the use of e-voting in the election:

“The new electronic voting was a great leap forward for ensuring a smooth and protected vote. It was a fulfillment of the automation that we pushed for from the start… To all who made automation a reality and a success, congratulations!! | Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President of the Philippines

“I had the privilege of observing the electoral process (…) and was impressed by the manner in which this first nation-wide automated election was conducted. Voters seemed generally comfortable with this new system, turn-out was high, and the automation process seemed to work well, with relatively few technical hitches” | Alistair MacDonald, EU Ambassador to the Philippines.

“Our observations suggested that this process was carried out smoothly, and the results transmitted rapidly, in the great majority of cases” | Alistair MacDonald, EU Ambassador to the Philippines.

“… That’s the beauty of automation. There’s no room for cheating” | Tita de Villa , Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

“The success of the elections would be a feather in the cap of the Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM, the police and military” | Gary Olivar, Deputy presidential spokesperson.

“I’m smiling again. The automation is a success” | Jose Melo, Chairman of Comelec.

“This only shows that we can pull this through. The conduct of the poll automation proves our critics wrong” | Gregorio Larrazabal, Comelec Commissioner.

“The Embassy of the United States extends warm congratulations to the people of the Philippines for achieving another milestone in their nation’s democratic history with the May 10 elections” | Embassy of the United States in the Philippines.

***

About Smartmatic Smartmatic is a multinational company that designs and deploys technological solutions aimed at helping governments fulfill, in the most efficient way, their commitments with their citizens. It is one of the largest cutting-edge technology suppliers, with a wide and proven experience in the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Smartmatic’s competitive strength lies on its cutting-edge technology and expertise in three key areas: Election Solutions, Identity Management Solutions and Public Safety Solutions.

Please check http://pcoswatch.wordpress.com

Henceforth, I am moving all posts about election fraud in the May 2010 elections to another site, also maintained by Halalang Marangal (HALAL), at http://pcoswatch.wordpress.com.

You are all welcome to continue browsing this site, of course, but if it is news and analysis on election fraud you want, you will find most of it in the other site.

Some more advice to protesting candidates in the May 2010 elections

Among the ERs in your possession, choose those where you got the lowest votes.

Among these precincts, identify where you are strongest, i.e. where you are sure you have many more supporters who voted for you than the votes the ER says you got.

Collect sworn statements from these supporters, attesting that they are registered in those precincts and that they voted for you, until you have, say, 20-50% more sworn statements than the votes you got. The more the better.

Use these to ask that the votes in the ballot boxes corresponding to these precinct clusters be recounted.

If you find significant discrepancies between the recount results and the machine count, use this to ask that other ballot boxes be opened for a recount.

More advice to protesting candidates

If you are protesting your loss in the May 2010 elections, get the circumstances behind the random manual audit (RMA) that should have been conducted in five clustered precincts in your congressional district.

These audits should have been conducted right after the ERs were transmitted and the final 22 copies printed, on May 10, where the cluster is located. It should have been witnessed by the watchers of political parties and citizens’ watchdogs like the PPCRV.

Get the circumstances around the RMA in your district, if the above were followed, or which provisions were NOT followed.

Whether the provisions were followed or not, demand a certified true copy of the RMA report as soon as possible. The longer it takes for the RMA team to give you the report, the less credible that report is.

Also, try to get certified true copies of the file slog.txt in the CF card of every PCOS in your jurisdiction. See the previous post for details.

All these are potential evidence for establishing whether or not the PCOS properly counted the votes.

Advice to all candidates who are contesting their loss in the 2010 elections

If you are a candidate contesting your loss in the 2010 elections, there is something you must do right away:

Ask the responsible Comelec official in your jurisdiction to copy the file “slog.txt” in the CF card, and to give you a print out of the copy, each page marked as a certified true copy. This file is the time-stamped audit log of the actions that the PCOS machine was commanded to do, while it was turned on.

This audit log is extremely important, so make sure you have a copy right away.

If you know candidates protesting their loss, please pass this on to them.

The 1-3pm House Committee on Suffrage hearings on automated election fraud

These hearings are turning out to be very informative, as well as entertaining. I suggest you all listen to these two-hour hearings regularly. I will try to clarify some of the exchanges that went on in the past two hearings.

On the wrong data and time stamp

Many did not immediately get the Smartmatic explanation, which I think sounded reasonable. The internal clock of some machines was not properly set by Smartmatic technicians at the Cabuyao plant. Fine. So the time stamp is wrong. Fine. (By the way, when I say time stamp, that includes date and time.) What the Smartmatic people were trying to say was: even if the time stamp is wrong, the relative time should still be correct. If the voting for instance took 12 hrs 7 min, the log should also show 12 hrs 7 min. If the transmission took 3 hrs 2 min, then the log should still show 3 hrs 2 min.

Thus, it should be easy to reconstruct everything by getting from the hand-written BEI minutes the time when, say, the machine was turned on, and then noting when this same event occurred on the audit log. For instance, the audit log time stamp may say that the machine was turned on April 28 4pm, but if according to the BEI minutes, the machine was actually turned on May 10 6am, then it establishes that April 28, 4pm on the machine is actually May 10 6am in real time. With this, the real time equivalent of every machine time stamp can now be calculated accurately, because the PCOS tme and real time are still synchronized in speed.

The point here that is audit log time stamps, even if wrongly-set, are not entirely useless. It is just inconvenient, but the actual time of events can still be reconstructed, and we can still determine what actually happened with the PCOS machines on what time.

This does not get Smartmatic off the hook, however. Once the event time stamps are reconstructed, they still need to explain anomalies, like opening and closing of the voting period in less than a minute, multiple transmissions, continuous feeding of ballots, and so forth.

Note that the Systest Labs source code review (which HALAL analyzed in one of the posts here) had identified this time stamp issue as a potential problem, warning that some machines actions may not include a time stamp, or may not even be logged, and that the audit log itself may be lost or overwritten, which enables intruders to cover up their tracks. This is one of the reasons we concluded that the Comelec erred in certifying the Smartmatic software.

Possible questions Committee members may ask in the future:

– Smartmatic should demonstrate how the PCOS internal clock is set, so that the public can determine if it is easy to do in the field and therefore subject to tampering.

– Smartmatic should explain what they did to respond to the time-stamp problems raised in the Systest Lab report.

– It might also be interesting to ask: if they could not set the internal clock correctly when all the machines were in the Smartmatic central warehouse, with senior engineers, and they were in no hurry, how could all the CF cards been successfully delivered and then replaced by junior field technicians involving machines spread all over the Philippines, in a matter of three days?

On the digital signatures

This is a big issue. If some lawyers are to be believed, this can make or break the 2010 elections.

The problem is that the Comelec explicitly instructed the BEIs not to digitally sign the transmission of the Election Returns (ERs). Hence, the ERs were submitted without the digital signatures of the BEI. Yet, the law requires that the BEI attest with their signature to the correctness and authenticity of the ERs they are sending to the Municipal or City Board of Canvassers. They do this with the printed ERs, which are signed by the BEIs, but the basis of the municipal/city canvass is not the printed ER, but the transmitted ER. Thus, if the transmitted ER is deemed void because it was not properly signed by the BEI (an explicit instruction of the Comelec), then, the municipal/city canvass itself is in danger of being voided too. Likewise, the provincial and of course the national canvass. (No one apparently raised this question when the senators were proclaimed — probably because 13th placer Risa Hontiveros and other losing senators were too shocked by their loss to protest — but it may be raised in the canvassing of presidential and vice-presidential votes).

Smartmatic/Comelec claim that the ER contains the digital signature of the PCOS machine. But the PCOS signature is not the BEI signature. And the PCOS signature has been stored in the PCOS ever since it left the Smartmatic plant in Cabuyao. It will happily add this signature to anything that it transmits, as it did when some PCOS machines mistakenly transmitted the results of the final field testing instead of the May 10 results. A few months back, I heard the Comelec explain that the BEI did not need to sign because their signature was already stored within the machine and that this would be transmitted with the ER. But again, this means the machine signed for the BEI.

The key problem here is that the BEI were specifically instructed NOT TO DIGITALLY SIGN the ER. Thus, on the witness stand, if they are asked: “Did you digitally sign this ER?” What answer can you expect?

And if the ERs were not signed by the BEIs, will they pass the test of legality?

That’s a big question mark.

There’s another major stumbling block on the legality of the digital signatures. These are supposed to be valid only if they are certified by a third-party certifying agency. But there was no third-party certifying agency. Smartmatic was generating, assigning, and authenticating these signatures by itself, which is not how a valid digital certification system should work. Thus, the whole digital certification system is also in danger of being declared null and void.

A final problem about the Smartmatic approach is that they generated both the public and private keys of the BEIs. It is a gross security violation by Smartmatic, which is running the whole authetication set up, to know private keys. Private keys are supposed to be known ONLY by those whose signature they represent. They are like passwords to your computer. Your company may issue you a computer with a standard password, but you can change that into a private password that only you know. Because they generated the private keys of all BEIs, Smartmatic could have stored these for future use, which means they can sign in the name of any BEI.

This is truly a major failing of the digital signature certification system.

Discrepancies found by PPCRV: tip of the iceberg?

News reports say the PPCRV has received 70,255 and encoded 43,035 election returns (ERs). Out of these, they found 29 discrepancies, or an average of one in 1,484 ERs (.07% error rate). PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa was quoted saying, “We can say that the election is clean because the discrepancy is very minimal.”

Unfortunately, computers are not evaluated that way. If your spreadsheet program makes one error for every 1,484 cells, junk it at once, because it is useless! If your wordprocessor changes one of every 1,484 characters it processes, junk it too.

While the analog side of an automated system (such as the scanning of marks) may introduce errors, we expect from the digital side zero error. Even a single error in a million characters or operations is a cause for worry, because it suggests a bug (a problem) in the machine’s logic. When testing software, testers assume that if you find one bug, more hidden bugs must exist. Unless that bug is found and properly evaluated, we can’t say if the problems it can cause are minor or major. All we know is, something is wrong with the software.

Unless the 29 discrepancies have been traced to the particular portion of Smartmatic software that caused them, and other portions of the software have been searched for similar bugs, it it premature to declare the election “clean”.

PPCRV grouped the 29 discrepancies into four:

  1. Candidates got zero votes (four machines). It is not clear from the news report whether some or all of the candidates got zero, and whether this occurred in the transmitted or the printed ERs, so we will leave this type of discrepancy for future analysis.
  2. A candidate got one less vote during transmission (at least two machines). The printed ER says a candidate got so many votes. But the transmitted ER has one vote less. That’s a “bawas”. Now, why would that happen? We had been worried earlier that the PCOS machine would print something, but transmit something else. And here’s the proof that the PCOS machine does print something but transmit something else. This is called malicious code. That it exists in one part of the system suggests that other parts of the system may also contain malicious code. In this particular case, the vote-shaving involved only one vote. But it is just as likely that the instruction could deduct not one but two – or for that matter, three or more. The discovery of malicious code really calls for a thorough review of the Smartmatic source code.
  3. Total votes in the transmitted ER was less than ten (nineteen machines). The printed ER has several hundred votes, but the transmitted ER has less than ten. The Comelec had earlier explained this away as follows: the board of election inspectors mistakenly transmitted the results of the previous final testing and sealing (FTS) instead of the May 10 results. This means that the FTS data are not zeroed, even if the May 10 data are zeroed at the start of voting. Here’s another case of malicious code. It means that the PCOS machines keep not one but two (and perhaps more) versions of vote data – the data from the FTS, and the authentic May 10 data.
  4. Total votes in the printed ER was less than ten (four machines). The transmitted ER has several hundred votes, but the printed ER has less than ten. This confirms that the PCOS machine keeps not one but at least two versions of vote data. It also suggests that BEIs, although it is not in the Comelec general instructions, can actually choose which vote data to print or transmit. In the third type of discrepancy, the BEI correctly printed the May 10 vote data but inadvertently transmitted the FTS data. In the fourth type of discrepancy, they inadvertently printed the FTS vote data but correctly transmitted the May 10 vote data. They must have pressed some keys, or done something different, that would either print the FTS data, or transmit the FTS data. These are undocumented options apparently triggered by hidden commands the BEI must have inadvertently pressed. This is another case of malicious code.

Let us be more systematic about this. There are four possibilities: 1) print May 10 data, transmit May 10 data; 2) print FTS data, transmit FTS data; 3) print May 10 data, transmit FTS data; and 4) print FTS data, transmit May 10 data.

The first one is the honest option, if you want to report exactly what the PCOS machine says it counted. The fact that other possibilities exist already indicate the existence of malicious code.

The third and fourth possibilities are BEI mistakes, caught by the PPCRV as its third and fourth types of discrepancy, respectively. We have already confirmed that these possibilities exist. That there are only 23 cases, means only 23 BEIs made mistakes among those who knew about the hidden commands. This is the tip of the iceberg that PPCRV stumbled on but consider “minimal”.

The second one is the undetected dishonest case: the BEI sends a false report instead of what the PCOS machine counted. This will not show up as a discrepancy. To detect it, we can: 1) count the votes in the ballots and compare the results with the machine count; 2) examine the CF cards in case they still contain both the false and the authentic vote data; 3) search the PPCRV and Comelec database for ERs whose transmitted and printed versions both contain ten total votes or less. The last method will not work, however, if the FTS before the elections was secretly done not with ten ballots but with several hundred. In fact, this looks like a plausible cheating method.

We must thank the PPCRV for detecting these discrepancies. They prove the existence of malicious code in the Smartmatic software and suggest a way high-tech cheating could have been done. Now, we have clues and can investigate further.

20 May 2010

Whistleblower video on automated fraud in the 2010 Philippine elections

The video that features an alleged whistleblower in the massive election fraud during the May 10, 2010 elections in the Philippines is now available on YouTube. In four parts, the video may be found below.

Posting it on this blog does not mean I believe everything claimed in the video. You should decide for yourself. Subsequent events may help us assess the authenticity of the various claims better.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Urgent! Stop the destruction of those Compact Flash (CF) cards!

This is a most urgent call to the Comelec. We also urge all candidates, the courts, media, the public to support this call and to act on it immediately.

THE COMELEC SHOULD RESCIND ITS ORDER TO DESTROY THE CF CARDS!

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CF CARDS MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY!

These cards may contain vital evidence that can prove high-tech fraud in the May 10, 2010 elections, so they should not be destroyed for any reason.

One very important file found in the CF card is called “slog.txt”. This unencrypted text file is an audit log. It logs actions done by the PCOS. Although we are not sure if the log is complete, it can contain logs of vital events that can incriminate high-tech cheats.

There is already one important case where this file revealed possible fraud. This case, ironically, involves as possible victim the wife of Cong. Teddy “Boy” Locsin Jr., main sponsor and proponent of the Automated Election Law in the House of Representatives. You can read Louie Locsin’s case here.

Louie Locsin ran for congressman in the first district of Makati. According to her blog:

Earlier that evening of election day, we were already celebrating the victory of Louie Locsin because initial returns were showing a landslide victory. Strangely, despite polling precincts being closed at 8pm, a good number of precincts only transmitted the results after 2am, some even “waiting” until 7am. By 7am when the last results came in, Louie was defeated by the Binay candidate by 242 votes.

According to the log, the PCOS machine votes were zeroed on May 10 9:55pm (yes, p.m.) and then at least 624 ballots were fed to the machine every 15 to 20 seconds.

This truly makes the CF card vital in detecting and proving high-tech fraud in the 2010 elections.

Please add your voice to our call. Let us not let the Comelec destroy or erase the contents of these vital pieces of evidence.

If it can happen to the wife of the principal sponsor of the Automated Election Law, it can happen to any candidate.

The Comelec pulled off a fast count alright, but is it accurate?

The count reached millions within a few hours, and was 90% complete within a week. That’s supposed to be impressive. Stunning, even.

But every time I ask, “so, how accurate are the counting machines?” I get a blank stare, including a surprising “I don’t know” from Mr. Gene Gregorio, Smartmatic spokesman. He gave this answer when I asked him directly, in front of many journalists, at the Kapihan sa Sulo forum last May 8, two days before the elections.

I had also asked this question from Commissioner Larrazabal on April 30, when I joined several IT experts convened by candidate Joey de Venecia III to talk to him about making public the SysTest Labs report. And his reply was also “I don’t know”.

Nobody, it seems, knows. Not the political parties, not the media, not PPCRV and other election watchdogs, not the public.

Isn’t it a little bit dumb, rather than smart, to go into a nationwide electoral exercise that will determine the future of our nation, without knowing the accuracy of the machines that will be counting the votes?

By the way, once we know the accuracy of a machine, we also know its error rate. A machine that is 95% accurate has an error rate of 5%. One that is 99% accurate has an error rate of 1%. The Comelec specifications called for a machine that is 99.995% accurate. This means an error rate of .005% or lower. Alternatively, it means no more than one error when reading 20,000 marks.

Why do we need such low error rates? We need it for very close contests. A machine that is 99.9% accurate, that is, an error rate of 0.1%, seems accurate enough. But such a machine will be unable to resolve contests where the apparent winning margin is less than 0.1%. That winning margin may simply be the result of machine error. Then, in these contests, we will have to count votes manually. In 2007, for example, Zubiri supposedly got .07% more votes than Pimentel, which gave Zubiri the 12th and last winning slot in the senatorial race. Machines with 0.1% error rates or higher would have been useless for resolving this contest.

The real test of an automated election is in resolving very close contests. And for such contests, we need very low error rates.

And it is hard to believe that Smartmatic and the Comelec don’t know. It is more probable that they know, but they don’t want us to know.

We actually had six chances to know the error rates of the PCOS machines. In five, the Comelec either kept the results from us, took them away, or otherwise made them useless. In one, we got a good idea of the machines’ error rates. Let us go through each of the six, one by one:

1. SysTest Labs system audit and source code review, began half a year before the elections. We paid SysTest some P72 million (1% of total project cost) to conduct a system audit and source code review of the Smartmatic system. And one of the things they should have measured was the error rate of several representative machines. When the Comelec released part of the Systest reports as a result of our dialogue with Comm. Larrazabal on April 30, the first thing I looked for was the machine error rate. I didn’t find it. Either SysTest did not measure the error rate, which would have been a major omission, or the Comelec chose to keep the results confidential.

2. Comelec acceptance tests, several months before the elections. As the PCOS machines came in, the Comelec should have tested these machines for failure rates, rates of rejection of valid ballots, and error rates, among other things. This is simple due diligence by a buyer accepting an expensive produce from a vendor. And since the Comelec specified an error rate of no more than .005%, they should have measured the error rate of each machine. Anything with an error rate higher than .005% should have been returned to Smartmatic for calibration, adjustment or replacement. In the process, each machine should have the test results attached to the machine itself, so that anyone can see what its actual error rate was. The Comelec, if it did these tests at all, have kept the results confidential.

3. Final testing and sealing (FTS) of the machines, three days before election day. Some election officials did the FTS seven days before the elections, and found to everyone’s great surprise that the machines were unable to detect or count votes properly! Votes mostly for local but also some national candidates were missed, while the votes for a few candidates were padded. The results were so bad that the Comelec hastily ordered all election inspectors to stop further testing of the machines.

4. Second FTS. The fiasco above was followed by a mad rush to recall, import, reconfigure, redistribute and reinstall new memory cards in time for election day on May 10. In this chaotic situation, security and chain of custody procedures must have been ignored or bypassed in the desperate rush to make the machines ready for election day. Were all new memory cards properly configured? Were all properly delivered and installed? Were all machines properly tested? Did all machines pass the test? I have been told this story by several watchers: “We were told that the testing will be on Sunday afternoon, but when we went, they told us it was already done yesterday.” Thus, when we held the elections, we did not know which machines, if any, were accurate, and which have remained grossly inaccurate, as we saw in the first FTS.

5. On election day itself, every voter should be able to verify that his choices are being correctly registered. This feature, which is built into the machine and is required by law, would have displayed on the screen the names of candidates corresponding to the ovals which the voter marked, a clear confirmation that the machine accurately registered the voter’s choices. This feature was disabled by the Comelec. Thus, if the machine that was counting their votes were inaccurate, the voters would never know.

6. After the elections, the random manual audit. Unfortunately, this audit is not so credible anymore. First, they announced the precincts to be audited noontime of election day. Thus, the cheats were forewarned which machines would be audited and would have ordered their field operators to stay away from these precincts! A normal audit should be finished in half a day — one day at the worst. Yet, three days after the elections, the full results had not been announced, the results that had come in were not made public, and the Comelec was simply making general public statements that “no discrepancies were found”. The delay, they said, was because the ballot boxed to be audited had to be retrieved from the municipal treasurer’s office where they were sent after the machine counting. Enough time for ballot box substitution to have occurred. With these problems, the audit has lost much of its credibility.

Yet the Comelec and local election authorities have already proclaimed winners, without even awaiting the random audit results, as if they knew that the audit would simply confirm the results.

Why do I get this feeling that I’m being told: “We’ve already pulled off a fast count, now you want us to be accurate too?”

Too soon to call 2010 elections successful

It is too soon to declare the 2010 elections a success.

People want a successful election so badly, that it is easy to get carried away by flood of incoming election returns. Many want to believe that a clean and honest election has finally happened, at last.

But the vice-presidential election is yet to be settled. The contest between the 12th and 13th places in the senatorial race still has to be settled too. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local races also await to be settled.

Already news is coming in about delayed Election Returns (ERs), malfunctioning, missing or otherwise questionable memory cards, and other indicators of potential or emerging problems.

As in the manual system, the precinct level count is always the fastest. Even when election inspectors, watchers and the public counted votes by hand, most of the election results had always been available past midnight or early morning. Even under the manual method, the biggest challenge has always been at the municipal level and higher, where wholesale cheating operations occurred.

In fact, the automated election system failed spectacularly its first truly public test a week before election day, when many candidates got zero – a “bawas” — and some got more than the votes actually cast for them – a “dagdag”. The results were worse than most manual counts. Fortunately, the failures in the machine count were so obvious that the election inspectors and watchers noticed them immediately. An embarrassed Comelec quickly called off the public test, and traced the problem to misaligned ovals on the ballot. Because of a last-minute change from single-spacing to double-spacing in the ballot layout for local candidates, their oval locations did not anymore match the coordinates stored in a configuration file in a memory card within the PCOS machine.

Reconfiguring the memory cards was somewhat easier than reprinting ballots, so that is what the Comelec and Smartmatic tried to do.

Smartmatic only had 18,000 spare memory cards and there was little time to recall the rest, so in addition to the spares, Smartmatic recalled the cards that could still be recalled; imported the rest from Hongkong and Taiwan; edited each of the 1,631 ballot layout configuration files (unique for every town); programmed these configuration files into 76,340 memory cards (one for each machine); delivered the 76,340 newly reconfigured memory cards to the waiting machines all over the archipelago; found the right machines for the right memory cards; replaced the misconfigured memory card; and conducted a second round of public testing and sealing of the PCOS machines. All within a span of five days – 120 hours. Aside from some 400 machines that malfunctioned, the rest of the 76,340 machines worked fine and gave the country its first successful automated elections. So they say.

Can we now trust the machine results?

These machines had grievously failed to count a few days earlier. This was followed by a mad rush of recalls, importations, file reconfigurations, card reprogramming, deliveries, reinstallation, and a second round of testing and sealing. In the mad rush, were security procedures and chain of custody considerations still observed? Did anyone see an election inspector with an ultraviolet lamp to check for authentic ballots, for instance? (We have not found anyone who did.) Suppose there were also more subtle problems that a ten-ballot test set was insufficient to detect – ovals that were misaligned by only one or two millimeters, for example, just as the security marks were, or oval coordinates that were purposely changed slightly to shave votes from targetted candidates. Were tests done at all for these potential problems?

Suppose an ATM had earlier given you only half the money than it deducted from your account, and the bank tells you the machine is now ok. Wouldn’t you count your money at least once in subsequent withdrawals? Suppose most ATMs of a bank network shortchanged its clients, wouldn’t they demand that every ATM of that network be carefully tested and recertified for its counting accuracy?

For exactly the same reason, every candidate who lost – and won – in the machine-counted 2010 elections should demand thorough post-election testing and audit for accuracy of every counting machine and its results.

Losing candidates should demand it, because they might have actually won.

Winning candidates – especially those who lead by a huge margin – should demand it, because the gross machine errors a few days earlier and subsequent doubts about machine accuracy have devalued their victory.

Apparent president-elect Noynoy Aquino should demand it, if only for the sake of his running-mate Mar Roxas, who sacrificed his own presidential ambitions to give way to Noynoy.

There was no time for proper testing in the mad rush to the May 10 elections because few wanted the elections postponed. But we have fifty days before June 30, when the new set of elected officials are scheduled to take over. We still have enough time check, double-check, and be sure about the results of the 2010 elections.

In the meantime, the Comelec and local election authorities should not be in a hurry to proclaim winners and declare the elections a success.

2010 election surprise: Binay leading Roxas

ROBERTO VERZOLA, Halalang Marangal (HALAL)

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/190631/2010-election-surprise-binay-leading-roxas

The most recent Comelec report (May 10, 2010, 11:30 p.m., 57% of all election returns canvassed) as of this writing suggests that the 2010 presidential election is an Aquino landslide.

Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III seems to be getting roughly three votes for every two votes for Joseph “Erap” Estrada and one vote for Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., confirming late pre-election surveys that showed a widening lead by Aquino over his closest rivals, and a precipitate drop in Villar’s share of the votes.

The tight vice-presidential race is the surprise of the 2010 elections, with Jejomar “Jojo” Binay roughly getting 8-10% more votes than early survey front-runner Manuel “Mar” Roxas III. It also confirms late pre-election surveys of a come-from-behind surge by Binay and a collapse in Loren Legarda’s share.

The top ten in the senatorial race, based on the same Comelec partial report, are Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Juan Ponce Enrile, Pilar Juliana “Pia” Cayetano, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Ralph Recto, Vicente Sotto III, and Sergio Osmeña III.

Occupying the eleventh to the fourteenth slots – traditionally a very tight contest – are Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon.

Without a breakdown of the election returns received per region or province, it is hard to put the above reports into context. Whether the rankings can still change significantly depends on those regions which are most incomplete in terms of submitted election returns.

Where cheating happens

It is in the low-completion regions where the cheating usually happened in the past. Some municipalities or even provinces would purposely delay reporting their returns, to allow candidates to estimate how many votes they needed to win. They would then bargain with local officials who control the uncanvassed ERs to swing the results in their favor.

The incoming flow of electronic ERs will slow down when all precinct clusters whose voting machines worked, were able to produce a vote count and transmit their results to central servers have completed their transmissions.

Then the results will start coming in more slowly, from voting machines whose memory cards are being physically transported to municipal canvassing centers. These memory cards will be inserted into card readers of the municipal canvassing servers, and their contents “imported,” to be merged with the ERs that had been electronically transmitted.

Cheats and new technology

This is another danger area. Depending on how quickly cheats have mastered the new technology, some may have already acquired enough sophistication to configure false memory cards and attempt an operation to substitute memory cards, analogous to the old practice of ballot-box substitution.

Also, a still-to-be-determined percentage of precincts will still conduct a manual count, if no machine reached them in time, or the machine broke down and its replacement could not get there in time, or if the ballots or the replacement memory card did not get to the precinct in time.

Then manual methods of cheating can still occur. It is in fact much easier now to shade ovals than write names. Thousands can be marked without giving away the secret like handwriting would. Several million votes may still be at stake here.

In the past, the conclusion of precinct counting would just be the start of various cheating operations that occur at the municipal, provincial and national levels. It never mattered to cheats that their operations would create discrepancies between precinct-level data and higher-level data. As long as their candidate was proclaimed, the challenges, costs and delays that faced any post-proclamation protest was enough to deter all but the most determined victims of cheating. After all, they got away with it in 2004 and 2007.

Thus, cheats may still launch attempts at the municipal level and provincial levels, if they had already found ways to do so. One should not underestimate the creativity of cheats.

However, Aquino’s seeming landslide win will probably deter any attempt to cheat him in favor of the runner-up. Estrada’s huge lead in the 1998 presidential elections, and Obama’s huge lead in the U.S. elections in 2008, had made it extremely difficult for a cheating operation to succeed. Thus, the cheats did not even dare, even if the machinery to do so was already in place. Had they led by a much smaller margin, the outcomes might have been different.

If his landslide win insulates Aquino from any outcome-changing attempt at fraud, the same cannot be said in other contests.

The close vice-presidential contest may tempt one or both of the protagonists to tap operators to either strengthen one’s lead or overcome the opponent’s. Too many votes remain uncounted for either side to relax their guard. The drama of the 2010 elections remains to be played out over the vice-presidential contest.

The senatorial contest too has traditionally been marked by a very close contest between the 12th and the 13th placers. In 2007, Zubiri’s margin over Pimentel was only .07% of Pimentel’s votes and this was obtained through statistically impossible results from six municipalities in Maguindanao.

In such close contests, we will need the .005% or lower error rate from PCOS machines specified by the Comelec. Unfortunately, the accuracy rates of these machines remain a big question mark, especially after the fiasco just a few days before the elections.

Again, some of the protagonists in the senatorial contest may be tempted to mount an operation to ensure a 12th or higher position. Whether anyone actually will, remains to be seen.

Finally, given the recent fiasco of gross errors from the voting machines, will losers – especially local candidates – accept at face value the numbers reported by these machines, or will they question the results and demand a recount to double-check their accuracy?

Until these questions are settled, it is too early to declare the 2010 automated elections a complete success. – HS, GMANews.TV


Last-minute reminders for the active voter

  1. Vote early; vote with your conscience.
  2. Watch over your precinct cluster and its voting machine.
  3. Answer the “good or ghost” question: Was the process clean or not? If not, why not?
  4. Note the cluster number and the PCOS serial number (you can get it from the publicly displayed Election Return or ER).
  5. Note the number of voters who actually voted, and the number of registered voters in the ER.
  6. Post #3-5 on the Web (a website, blog post or comment, Facebook or Multiply); always prefix your report with: “PCOS REPORT”
  7. Report #3-5 to the media or to Halalang Marangal (email to: halalang.marangal@gmail.com); to the Never Again 2010 movement (email to: neveragain_2010@yahoo.com or leave comment at http://neveragain2010.wordpress.com); or to PRRM (Tel. 371-2107) Halalang Marangal (HALAL)

Expect a flood of demands for recount from losing candidates

The PCOS fiasco a few days before the May 10 elections has shattered the credibility not only of election automation, but of the entire electoral process itself. The entire process hinges on an accurate count by the PCOS machine. In fact, COMELEC specifications require at least 99.995% accuracy, or at most one error for every 20,000 marks or around 600 ballots. Today, we have very little idea how accurately the PCOS will count our votes.

One minor mistake – changing from a single-spaced to a double-spaced layout – has created a crisis of credibility for the entire elections. Who will accept at face value the PCOS machine counts now? Even a candidate who wins with a narrow margin may suspect that the machine might have trimmed his margin. Certainly, losing candidates can now be expected to demand a manual recount, so they can see for themselves how they actually fared. No assurance from Smartmatic or the Comelec will now suffice, because everyone has seen how the PCOS machine made gross errors during the final testing and sealing.

Many may not realize it yet, but we are in a different ballgame now. May 10 election victories — whoever wins, in whatever position – have just suffered a major devaluation.

The PCOS fiasco has robbed the winners of the May 10 elections of a clear victory. It has created not only a cloud of doubt about the machine results, but also last-minute disruptions in the crucial final days before the elections that will surely create confusion and chaos in many areas.

Deliveries had to be suspended, because the PCOS machines had to stay put in the hubs or sub-hubs, so they can await the CF memory card replacements. The final testing and sealing had to be called off, to avoid further embarassment and damage to the credibility of the automation project. When the replacement memory cards eventually arrive for installation in the machines, only then can these machines leave the distribution hubs and sub-hubs for final deployment.

Designing machines and ballot sets that will only work with each other, but delivering them separately had earlier created a “logistical nightmare”. The nightmare just became worse, because machines, ballot sets, and memory cards are now being delivered separately, and under even greater time pressure.

If the PCOS machine, its associated set of ballots, and its associated memory card, do manage to find themselves reunited in their destination precinct cluster, on time for the May 10 elections, they still need to be tested again. It was obvious from the fiasco that the accuracy of the machines were not checked before they were deployed, so the final testing is our only chance to determine the accuracy of the PCOS. This final testing cannot be dispensed with.

If the final testing with a ten-ballot test set shows even a single error, then we cannot guarantee with 95% confidence that the machine’s error rate is lower than 1%. There’s a good chance it is higher than 1%. Then, the board of election inspectors must either ask for a replacement, or go ahead and use an inaccurate machine.

Where machines don’t arrive, stop working, reject too many valid ballots, or otherwise fail, the board of election inspectors must resort to a manual count. The Comelec says it has prepared the paraphernalia for up to 30% of the precincts. But the precinct election inspectors have ask for the paraphernalia to be delivered first. More delays. Given the confusion, more than 30% of precincts may need to resort to a manual count.

If the paraphernalia for a manual count don’t arrive, the ballot boxes will have to be sealed and watched over, to be counted later.

So, expect confusion and chaos in many areas on election day. Yet, even where everything works smoothly, the machine counts will remain under a cloud of doubt, and losing candidates will surely demand a recount, citing as reason the errors made by the PCOS machines earlier. Who can blame them?

All because of an innocuous-looking suggestion to change from a single-spaced to a double-spaced ballot layout.

The origin of this suggestion must be traced. Who first raised it? Why did Comelec approve it? Why didn’t Smartmatic or Comelec test the accuracy of the PCOS machine with the new layout?

If anyone had intentionally wanted to disrupt the elections and discredit its results, he – or she – couldn’t have done it any better.

A discussion paper on parallel counts and postponing elections

[You may download this discussion paper here.]

The erroneous counts reported during the final field testing of PCOS machines and traced to the gross misalignment of ovals on the local side of the ballots have shattered public confidence in the voting machines. As a result, two different proposals have been raised: one is to postpone the elections, and the other is to hold a manual count. However, the COMELEC seems to believe that the misalignment problem can still be remedied. Smartmatic is now trying to reconfigure memory cards to take into account the misalignment, and the COMELEC has made clear its intention to go ahead with the May 10 scheduled date of the automated elections, and to do so without any parallel manual counting.

Debate: Automated, manual or both? Postpone or not?

Thus, a debate now rages about the best option to take in the interest of a clean, honest and credible elections. As a contribution to this debate, let us clarify the various options and the pros and cons of each option:

  • Automated count is the process implemented by Smartmatic using PCOS machines to scan and count the votes cast as shaded ovals, with the results being transmitted electronically or transported physically to municipal/city canvassing centers
  • Manual count is the process managed by the board of election inspectors based on the old method of reading each vote aloud – now based on marked ovals beside candidate names – and recording the vote in tally sheets and the totals in manually filled-up election returns
  • Postponement means setting a new date for the elections one to four weeks after May 10 to give either the automated or the manual count or both enough time to complete the preparations, tie up loose ends, patch up problems, and generally ensure that the elections can be successfully held securely, accurately and credibly and a new set of elected officials proclaimed by June 30.

Here’s an exhaustive list of the different combinations of these three options:

No elections Manual Only Automated Only Parallel Count
No postponement No-El May 10 manual COMELEC NAMFREL
Postponement Postponed manual Macalintal Perlas
  1. No elections. Although some officials currently occupying elected positions or military junta advocates may wish for “No-El” as their dream option, it will not be considered an option here.
  2. Back to the manual count. This is the electoral process that cheats are now so familiar with that they can probably pad and shave votes in their sleep. While few will defend the old manual system of Philippine elections, it should be noted that votes in many other countries are counted manually through various processes that are generally acknowledged as clean, honest and credible. It should also be noted that even in the Philippines, a majority – perhaps up to 80% — of election jurisdictions conduct the counting, canvassing and consolidation of votes in a clean, honest and credible way, just as it is done in other countries. It is those few corrupt local and national election officials who chronically sell their services to equally corrupt candidates that give a bad name to Philippine elections. Because cheats are rarely prosecuted, much less get meted the punishment of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office that await convicted election offenders, they will surely welcome a return to the familiar manual system, whether it is conducted on May 10 or a subsequent date.
  3. Automated only, no postponement. This is the COMELEC’s position. Their reasons have been well-reported in media: automation will solve the problems of delay and cheating; conducting a manual count will only confuse the public. delay the process, and provide an opening for the cheats to operate in familiar territory; it is still possible to provide the solution to the misalignment of local ovals, thus there is no need to postpone. Unfortunately for the COMELEC and Smartmatic, their credibility has been shattered by the gross errors of the PCOS machines. Winning back public confidence may take more than a few days. It is impossible now to look at a PCOS machine without asking the question: will it count accurately this time? Under these conditions, it is hard to imagine how can the machine results can be credible. Because a 10-ballot test set is inadequate for weeding out slightly inaccurate machines, and the voter verification feature of the machine has been disabled, this question about the true accuracy of the machine will remain unanswered.
  4. Automated only, with postponement. This is the Macalintal proposal. Many have reacted negatively to this proposal raised by the lawyer of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was herself caught in the act of micro-managing election fraud in 2004 with her field operator Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. Her party and the Ampatuans did it again in 2007, when they made Zubiri senator over the real winner Pimentel through statistically impossible results in six Maguindanao towns. That they got away with these crimes has hugely reinforced the sense of impunity among election cheats. Malacanang design is perceived to be behind the Macalintal proposal. Postponement is seen as a slippery slope that can lead to open-ended extra-constitutional scenarios that Malacanang is suspected of planning. The proposal also suffers from the same infirmity as the COMELEC position, with regards to its automated-only aspect. The public now knows that PCOS machines make mistakes too, and grievious ones at that. Once short-changed by an ATM machine, a depositor will want to carefully double-check every withdrawal made from these machines.
  5. Parallel count, no postponement. This is the NAMFREL proposal. The proposal for a parallel count has been raised earlier under a different name. Cong. Felicito Payumo was one of the earliest to propose a 100% manual audit. HALAL had likewise raised a version of the Payumo proposal. There have been variations, from HALAL’s president-only proposal, expanding the audit if significant discrepancies are found, to the business sector’s president, vice-president and mayor, to the Philippine Bar Association’s five-positions proposal. A parallel run is part of the usual industry methods of phasing in automation projects: pilot phase, dry run, parallel run, manual on standby, and so on. Given the shattered credibility of the PCOS machines when they gave grossly erroneous counts in the final 10-ballot testing, it now seems necessary for the machines to go through a parallel run before they can recover, if ever, this credibility. Unfortunately, the COMELEC remains adamant against a parallel count.
  6. Parallel count, with postponement. This is the Perlas proposal. Although Perlas wanted “up to three months”, variations that are being considered include a few days to a few weeks. Parallel run considerations have been covered above. The main concern about a postponement – especially since Perlas had said that “an extension of the Arroyo term was better than chaos and violence in the streets” – is that it would become open-ended and a prelude to the term extension of Arroyo, who seems ready and willing to do anything to hold on to power. This is the reason NAMFREL and others have called postponement “a dangerous option” and would not touch this option with a 10-foot pole.

Let us take a deeper look at both the parallel-run and postponement options:

Parallel count

The obvious role of a parallel run in any automation project is to mitigate the impacts of potential technology failures. In addition, a parallel-run will also make the work of cheats doubly hard, because they have to doctor both the machine and the manual counts. If the fraud creates significant discrepancies, public demand for explanation can trigger a cascade of investigations that may eventually uncover the cheating and expose the cheats. Because the technology is new, the cheats may not have mastered the fine art of electronic cheating, as they have manual cheating, hence keeping discrepancies to the minimum may be harder the first time around. For this reason, a parallel run will add to, not detract from, the credibility of an election outcome. With the shattered credibility of the PCOS machines (and Smartmatic/COMELEC as well), the COMELEC may have no choice but to agree to parallel run – unless it allows sheer stubbornness and unwillingness to admit mistakes color its decision-making. But then, it cannot anymore sweep under the rug any inaccuracy that the PCOS will probably still show, after their memory cards are recogfigured.

A credible parallel count needs more time

Unfortunately, the automated and the manual processes required for a parallel count are both not ready, less than a week before election day. The automated process has been under terrible time pressure from the beginning of the project. Today, that pressure has reached incredible proportions. Under this pressure, people will tend to make more wrong decisions, commit more mistakes, forget minor details (like the side-effect of changing ballot designs), and so on. Haste makes waste. The automated process has to work to turn the parallel run into reality. For this to happen, the technicians and engineers who are trying to make it work must be given enough breathing space and the incredible time pressure they are now working under must be eased up. HALAL has already pointed out from the beginning that the chance of success of the automation project was unacceptably low. Given the recent partial failures in the project, it is even lower today. Our analysis of the SysTest report shows that there are other problems that might have been masked by the gross errors displayed by the PCOS at the last minute. Most of these subtler problems cannot be corrected anymore. Their effect is to make the PCOS machine less accurate and more open to insider attacks, which, however, can be detected with a parallel run. At best, a postponement can give us PCOS machines that are only somewhat accurate, possibly 98-99% or even lower, that can still serve to flag the gross effects of pad-and-shave operations by cheats who have mastered the manual system.

Even a manual count, the other side of a parallel run, needs time to make it work. HALAL has a former COMELEC commissioner among its convenors, and Comm. Sadain estimates that at least three months is needed to fully prepare for a manual election. It is true that no additional ballots need to be printed, and 30% of the canvassing paraphernalia have been printed (if COMELEC statements are to be believed), but put the harried COMELEC personnel under more time pressure by making them produce and deliver the remaining 70% within a few days invites its own set of problems.

Thus insisting on a parallel run on May 10 may lead to having automated voting only in some areas, manual-only in other areas, both in still other areas, and perhaps none at all in a few areas – a formula for confusion and chaos.

It seems obvious, from a technical perspective at least, that a little extension will do both the automated and the manual aspects of a parallel run a lot of good, if only to ease up the terrible time pressure that election workers have been working under for several months now.

Is postponement constitutional?

HALAL considers the constitutionality of any postponement another important factor to consider. If legal luminaries all agree that any postponement will be unconstitutional, then it is pointless to postpone. Any winner proclaimed in a postponed election can be questioned before the Supreme Court and we are back in political limbo.

This is what Article VII Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution says: “Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for President and Vice-President shall be held on the second Monday of May.” While the date leaves no room for flexibility, initial qualifying phrase seems to create an loophole that can make postponement constitutional if a law provides for it. Is there such a law?

Section 5 of the Omnibus Election lists the grounds for postponing elections: “any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision.” Again, the reference to “other analogous causes” might be interpreted as another loophole that can justify postponement.

Postponement: slippery slope

Although this matter can probably be settled with finality only in the Supreme Court, the larger concern against postponement is not its constitutionality but that it may create the opening for Malacanang term-extensionists, junta advocates, and other plotters and conspirators. A fifteen-day postponement (as proposed by Villanueva and Estrada), can easily become a month or more. Beyond a month, issues of constitutional succession kick in. In addition, volatile public mood primed for elections can turn frustrated and angry, spill over into the streets, and provide perfect excuse for a declaration of emergency and even martial law. Public anger, a mailed-fist response, and the chaos may be interpreted by the Left as a new revolutionary upsurge, triggering a new vicious cycle of confrontation politics. Indeed, postponement may turn out to be a slippery slope into a political blackhole.

Overall, then, we have been pushed into a corner, with no viable option left.

This was all triggered by a suggestion of changing a single-spaced layout to a double-spaced layout. Several questions come to mind: did the suggestion come from the Smartmatic or the Comelec side? Why did the Comelec approve the suggestion? When Smartmatic requested a second round of PCOS tests to double-check the new layout, why did the Comelec disapprove the request?

The above questions will have to remain unanswered for the moment. The next question may be easier to answer: who benefits from the shattered credibility of the automated elections? In fact, since the Comelec refuses to consider a parallel run or a 100% manual audit, then the credibility of the electoral process itself has been shattered.

Can the 2010 elections still be credible?

The answer may lie on the irreconcilably antagonistic relationship between Arroyo and survey frontrunner Aquino. The latter’s campaign promise to investigate the former’s misdeeds has led Arroyo to reportedly adopt an “anyone but Noynoy” policy. Since Arroyo was herself caught cheating in 2004, and again led her party in the 2007 cheating for Zubiri through the Ampatuans and other ARMM warlords, can we be faulted for expecting that she will use – perhaps even improve on – these tactics again in 2010? Threatened with prosecution and possibly a similar fate as Estrada, or even Marcos, of course we can expect Arroyo to use every means fair or foul to make sure frontrunner Aquino does not become president.

But cheating has its limits too. Consider Estrada’s case in 1998. The administration party had prepared the time-tested methods of election fraud against Estrada. But because he led by a landslide, they did not dare. The cheating would been too obvious and still would have failed to accomplish its goal anyway. Consider again Obama’s case in 2008. The Republicans were ready to cheat through the voting machines, most of which were controlled by Republican vendors/supporters. But because of Obama’s landslide lead, the Republican cheats didn’t dare. But the close contests of 2000 and 2004 are now seen by an increasing number of people in the U.S. as stolen elections.

If Malacanang believes in the surveys and anticipates a landslide win for Noynoy, the cheating option is not viable anymore.

But another option is left: to disrupt and discredit the electoral process itself, robbing of victory what Malacanang anticipates to be the most probable winner of the 2010 elections, without taking efforts anymore to help the runner up overcome the frontrunner’s lead through fraud. That is exactly what the innocuous ballot layout change has accomplished.

This analysis is speculative, but it explains the events quite well. All we need to do now to test the speculation is to trace where the suggestion to change the ballot layout came from.

HALAL Statement: Smartmatic ballot production software was not certified

HALAL STATEMENT

Last April 30, in response to a request by candidate Joey de Venecia III, the Comelec made public a set of documents relating to the source code review of the Smartmatic software conducted by SysTest Labs Inc. One of the documents was “Certification Test Summary for AES May 2010 Rev. 1.00”, dated March 8, 2010. It summarized another SysTest report “Final AES Certification Test Report for the Smartmatic Automated Electon System (AES)”, which the COMELEC has not made public yet.

The Summary may help explain the recent spate of PCOS failures to read local votes which, Smartmatic admits, is due to their error in configuring the ballot design. Citing the problems SysTest had earlier found in its source code review, the Summary listed several “compensating controls” that were essential in mitigating the Smartmatic software problems that SysTest had identified.

In one compensating control, SysTest was very explicit: “The Ballot Production tool was not subjected to the full certification process; therefore it should not be utilized in the May 10, 2010 election process.” (Summary, p.6) Given the ballot printing problems of the COMELEC, from the misalignment of the ultraviolet security mark to the misconfiguration of the ballot design, HALAL asks the COMELEC and Smartmatic to clarify if they utilized Smartmatic’s Ballot Production tool despite the explicit warning of SysTest.

HALAL notes that the March 8 SysTest summary only gave a conditional endorsement of the Smartmatic software. HALAL further notes that the summary was submitted one month past the AES Law deadline for the legally-required certification “categorically stating that the AES … is operating properly, securely and accurately”. This was the SysTest recommendation in the summary (p.7): “Assuming the abovementioned [compensating] controls are put into practice and that the AES is properly configured, operated and supported, SysTest Labs finds the Smartmatic Automated Election System to be capable of operating properly, securely and accurately and therefore recommends the system for certification and use in the May 10, 2010 election.”

Instead of the categorical statement required by the AES Law R.A. 9369, SysTest’s conditional endorsement was premised on the crucial assumption that all “controls are put into practice”.

According to the AES Law R.A. 9369, the COMELEC Technical Evaluation Committee must “certify, through an established international certification entity, … categorically stating that the AES, including its hardware and software components, is operating properly, securely, and accurately, in accordance with the provisions of this Act based, among others, on the following documented results: 1) … ; 2) … ; 3) The successful completion of a source code review; 4) … “

Given all the problems cited in the Feb. 9 SysTest report (HALAL’s analysis of this report is attached), and the explicit warning in the Mar. 8 SysTest summary report against using Smartmatic’s ballot production tool, it is clear that no certification should have been issued to the Smartmatic software because it would put our national elections at an unacceptably high risk.

Smartmatic machines are not so smart after all

We are spending P7.2 billion to lease these “smart automatic” machines. It turns out that they are not so smart after all. In fact, they seem downright stupid.

They can’t recognize a check mark or a cross. They can’t recognize ballpen or pencil marks. They need full, dark shadings to be convinced that you want to mark an oval. Isn’t that stupid?

When the security marks were misaligned by a mere one to two millimeters, the machines had trouble finding them. They were making so many mistakes that Smartmatic decided to forget “smart automatic” and go back to manual instead. They will just give election inspectors ultraviolet lamps; the inspectors will shine the lamp on each ballot and decide after an ocular inspection if the ballot is authentic or not. Still better than a dumb machine that can’t find the security mark.

A few days before the May 10 elections, these “smart automatic” machines are supposed to be unsealed for a final test in the field by election inspectors. Reports are now flooding in that many can’t read some of the marks, and can’t count some of the votes. Read the reports:

For the sake of our elections, let us all hope and pray that these problems will be solved before May 10.

HALAL analysis of recently-released SysTest source code review

Halalang Marangal (HALAL) recently obtained a copy of the SysTest report on the source code review of the Smartmatic software that it conducted Oct. 26, 2009 to Feb. 9, 2010. This review was the basis for the Comelec concluding that the Smartmatic Automated Election System will count our May 10 votes properly, securely and accurately. The SysTest report and related documents may be downloaded here.

HALAL’s conclusion, after scrutinizing the SysTest report, is that the Smartmatic software should NOT have been certified. We should not have put our national elections at risk given the clear warnings of SysTest about problems in the Smartmatic software.

You may download the HALAL analysis here.