Comelec welcomes warning vs poll automation

13 04 2009

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:11:00 04/13/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Inquirer Politics, Technology (general)

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Elections (Comelec) welcomed the warnings of some groups concerned with the full automation of the 2010 elections, officials said.

“We at Comelec are very grateful that many groups are coming forward to air their concerns,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

Jimenez said groups like Computer Professionals Union and TransparentElections.org, were not against automation but were merely raising warning flags, identifying aspects of the project that are most vulnerable.

“The poll body is inviting interested groups to coordinate with us regarding their concerns. We welcome the opportunity to work together with them to achieve clean, honest and orderly elections in 2010,” he added.

Jimenez said the Comelec was open to meet with the groups “to ventilate and discuss their issues and tackle strategies like partnership or access agreements throughout the implementation phase of the project.”

“These warnings are natural and serve as jump off point for poll officials to exercise caution, wisdom in the project implementation and encourage faith among people that the automation project is possible. We invite them to work with us to make this elections project happen,” Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan said in a separate interview.

SBAC handles the procurement process of the precinct count optical scan machines that the Comeelc plans to deploy in the 2010 polls.

Last week, CPU published its warning on its website, saying that “if not done properly, automated large scale cheating could happen with the Comelec’s plan for automated elections.”

CPU noted its concern to have an automated election system that is “reviewed by a large number of independent security experts with knowledge in computer security and cryptography” and have “voter-verifiable audit trails for reference.”

Responding to this, Jimenez noted that under Republic Act 9369, it is mandatory for the source code to be opened for review and the AES has system audit trails just like what the CPU is recommending.

TransparentElections.org represented by IT expert Augusto Lagman has urged the Comelec to adopt open election system (OES), which combines manual voting and tallying of votes at precincts and automated canvassing from municipal to higher levels of boards of canvassers.

To this, Jimenez said the Comelec has already explained and defended in both houses of Congress how the poll automation budget would be allocated.

In earlier reports, Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said the total purchase cost for 80,000 PCOS units amounts to P11.669 billion, at P145, 867 per unit but the poll body would exercise the lease before purchase option, and would rent the machines for P8 billion.

The Comelec plans to lease the PCOS machines so they can be tested first during the 2010 elections, said Tolentino.

The poll body allocated P50 million for the transmission costs and P200 million for the 2,000 canvassing units to be deployed in municipalities, cities and provinces nationwide.

Other allocations include cost of ballot papers, estimated at P1 billion and 78.17 million for the cost of new ballot boxes, which would be procured via a separate bidding, said Jimenez.

When asked if the Comelec would adopt OES as fall back system for the automation project, Jimenez noted “the poll body has not ruled out the possibility yet.”

Source: inquirer.net

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