I. Introduction The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) or Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology system adopted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) under the present political conditions and capability of the nation’s election manager, the Comelec, will make the whole electoral process bereft of credibility, transparency, or voter participation. With no electronic technology being invented that is safe from human intervention such as hacking and other types of computer attacks, the system will most likely lead to wholesale electronic cheating.
Unbeknownst to the public and media, it will trigger a scramble for control of the key to the hardware and software technology among the moneyed and powerful. The May 2010 synchronized national and local elections where full automation or full electronic voting will be used for the first time is a major political event that should not be measured or prepared for solely on their installation of technology.
It should be seen rather as one political exercise that remains dominated by the elite under the Arroyo government and where electronic technology may be manipulated to allow the oligarchs to remain in power. Such possibility has become stronger with the entrenchment of powerful fraud machineries, with the Comelec yet to solve its credibility problem and the overarching concern of election fraud is yet to be decisively addressed.
The new technology system will be in the hands of these powers but the winning bidder which will most likely be a multinational company also shares this power. Under these conditions, the technology preferred by the Comelec will all the more reinforce the manipulative character of the traditional electoral process. The overall electoral struggle that seeks to bring progressive, non-traditional minds with a strong voice in Congress and in other elective positions has always included the campaign to make the Comelec independent and to have an open, transparent, and credible elections.
The automation of the elections deserves the people’s support – but only insofar as it promotes the principle of “secret voting and public counting”; for as long as it would make the polls clean, transparent, and credible and would give election stakeholders especially the voters some latitude and leeway to participate and contest election results, among others. Contrary to what is now evolving, the modernization of the country’s election system is supposed to promote and enhance – not limit or constrain – the people’s voting rights as an expression of their sovereign power to choose the kind of government the people deserve.
The Comelec’s PCOS (OMR) is drawing increasing opposition from leading IT specialists, computer science academe, independent centers engaged in electoral struggle and governance as well as members of Congress, the interfaith community and other critics. From their perspective, the technology system is vulnerable to wholesale electronic cheating (by external hacking, internal rigging, or other means) made possible by the fraud machineries, resources and powers of the regime – for that matter, of other powerful traditional politicians, TNCs, and a foreign power.
The use of PCOS (OMR) will likely translate to huge election losses and the disenfranchisement of millions of voters. Comelec’s technology system makes counting, canvassing, and consolidation of election data invisible and difficult to track and are made so fast as to make the filing of election protests impossible and poll watching extremely difficult if not a futile exercise. Under the PCOS or OMR, the fate of the 2010 elections could as well be decided by Malacanang, Comelec, the winning bidder, and the cheats.
The opposition to the PCOS (OMR) has included not only a critique of the various internal weaknesses, errors, and vulnerabilities of this technology as experienced in many countries including in the Philippines’ August 2008 ARMM elections but also procedures being pursued and adopted by the Comelec as specified in its Request for Proposal (RfP) / Terms of Reference (ToR). In opposing, there is a need to expose the perceived manipulative character of the Arroyo government and the traditional electoral process that will likely be made more dangerous by the type of technology chosen by the Comelec.
At the same time, there is a need to put forward alternative technologies that seek to make the elections transparent and open, allowing and encouraging more participation from the people and access to electoral data even as we remain vigilant against the fraud machineries of the government and other traditional political forces. We should also put forward mechanisms and safeguards to allow more room for public intervention like legal protests and other challenges to fraud.
As an alternative to closed technologies such as the OMR and DRE, we propose an automated election system that is consistent with the parameters/requirements of exercising the people’s democratic rights – the right of suffrage, right of access to public information, and others – making poll watching viable and effective, and allowing election protests to be filed to meet specific objectives; where we can overcome constraints.
We support a system where the people, along with their organizations, political parties, and poll watch groups can be allowed to maneuver, have access to, and intervene in the various processes or stages of the automated election system ranging from voting, to counting, and canvassing; in filing election protests to the proclamation of winners. II. History A) International History The company was contracted in 2004 for the automation of electoral processes in Venezuela. Since 2004, its election technology has been used in 25 local and national elections: in Venezuela, USA, Curacao, Belgium, Brazil and The Philippines.
Its mileage includes more than 1. 5 billion audited votes, each with a voter-verified printed receipt, cast using some 193,000 voting machines installed in some 330,000 poll centers. On August 11, 2008, automated regional elections were held in the Philippines’ Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In the Maguindanao province, voters used Smartmatic’s electronic voting machines, while voters in the other 5 provinces (Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi) used manually marked ballots processed using OMRtechnology. The overall reaction of both the public and authorities was positive toward the solution.
In May 2010, Smartmatic automated the National Elections in the Republic of the Philippines. The process involved 50. 7 million voters choosing from more than 85,000 candidates contesting for 17,000 posts. In October 2012. Smartmatic participated in the elections of 3 countries. In Venezuela, October 7, for the first time in the world, national elections were carried out with biometric voter authentication to activate the voting machines. Out of 18,903,143 citizens registered to vote in the presidential elections, voter turnout was around 81%, both record figures in Venezuelan electoral history.
The same day, Smartmatic provided election support for data and voice communications to the 16 most isolated states in Brazil, and also battery power support to voting machines. These services implied hiring and training 14,000 technicians who worked at 480,000 polling stations, servicing over 500,000 pieces of election equipment. On October 14, 2012, Belgium utilized Smartmatic’s technology and managed services to carry out regional elections in 153 communes in the Flanders and Brussels-Capital regions. The solution deployed was developed according to the strict standards and guidelines set forth by Belgian authorities.
USP (from Smartmatic Security Solutions) was installed in more than 500 branches of Santander-Serfin Bank, (Mexico). Since 2006, the Office of the Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas in Venezuela began the installation of the integrated public security system that helps authorities to provide immediate responses to citizens whose safety has been jeopardized. In 2011, The District of Cartagena in Colombia selected Smartmatic as technology provider for the new Financial Administration Service of the Integrated Mass Transit System (Transcribe) which will operate based on a highly automated Fare collection and fleet control system.
The Smartmatic Identity Management Solution has been deployed in Bolivia (Biometric Voter Registration for the Bolivian National Electoral Court (July 2009 – October 2009) with 5. 2 million people registered); Mexico (Provision of enrolment terminals and software for the National ID Program of the Secretariat of Governance (Dec 2009 – Dec 2012) with 100 million people to be registered); and Zambia (Provision of enrolment terminals and software for Digital Mobile Voter Registration contracted by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) & Electoral Commission of Zambia (February 2010 – October 2010)).
B) National History In July, immediately after the May 1992 Synchronized National and Local Elections, Operation MODEX, which stands for Modernization and Excellence, was born in a strategic planning seminar in Tagaytay City which was participated in by all COMELEC key officials from the Chairman and the Commissioners, down to all the department and regional directors. In this seminar, modernization of the electoral process was identified as one of the eight (8) components of Operation MODEX.
Thus began the modernization efforts of the COMELEC under the able leadership of then Chairman Christian S. Monsod. In June, a study entitled “Modernizing Philippine Elections” by an international consultant in election administration, Ms. Marie Garber of Rockville, Maryland, USA, in collaboration with the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), scanned alternative technology to modernize the electoral process in the Philippines.
The services of Ms. Garber and the PCS consultants were contracted under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The significance of the Garber Report is that it served to affirm the direction of the COMELEC, as contained in its six-year Operation MODEX program (1992 – 1998), and that it presented several available technologies in the COMELEC’s modernization effort to modernize the Philippine electoral process.
The following month, in July, of the same year, on the basis of the Garber Report, Andersen Consulting did an Information Systems Planning (ISP) Study for the COMELEC, in behalf of the PCS, which, among others, made a preliminary evaluation of voting and canvassing equipment and recommended consideration of either the optical mark sense or punchcard system as possible technology fitted for Philippine setting.
The COMELEC made sure that conduct of the public transactions in its organization in connection with its modernization programme, in its activities and linkages with public and private agencies, would be transparent, promulgating a resolution (Res. No. 2616) to this effect in the month of August. Immediately after, the COMELEC sent requests for proposals/bids to suppliers shortlisted in the July Andersen ISP study and to other local and foreign of canvassing equipment. Two months afterwards, in October, a 15-day inspection trip to the United States was made by a specified COMELEC team, composed of:
1.then Commissioner-in-Charge of the Modernization Project – Regalado Maambong, 2. then Planning Department Director – Mamasapunod Aguam, 3. then Finance Services Department Director – Ernesto Herrera, 4. then Technical Consultant for the Modernization Project of the Commission – Mr. Alwin Sta. Rosa, and 5. then Andersen Consulting President – Mr. Baltazar Endriga The inspection trip team met with the following while in the US: 1. Business Records Corporation (BRC), Texas 2. Sequoia Pacific voting Equipment, Inc. , New York 3. National Computer Systems International (NCSI), Minnesota 4.
Unilect Corporation, California 5. Officials of San Mateo County, state of California 6. paper suppliers/manufacturers A preliminary report was presented to the Commission en banc afterwards, which included a slide presentation of the election systems surveyed and sample ballots/forms used in various jurisdictions in the US. Integral to the team’s reports was its recommendation of the optical mark sense technology as the best suited for Philippine elections and the short listing of three (3) companies based on the results of the evaluation during the inspection trip.
The following year, the COMELEC already began preparations in anticipation of the signing of the draft modernization bill in to law in Congress. The first quarter of the year saw an equipment demonstration from each of the three (3) shortlisted companies from the US inspection trip, which consisted of: 1. American Information Systems, Inc. (AIS) of Nebraska, USA 2. Business Records Corporation (BRC) of Texas, USA and 3. National Computer Systems, Inc. (NCSI) of Minnesota, USA Media, representatives of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Congress and the Citizen’s Arms were invited to attend.
In the course of the six months that followed, a bidding process for selection of supplier for canvassing equipment. Before the end of the third quarter, after a thorough study of the suppliers’ proposals, BRC was selected. Then Resident COA Auditor certified the bidding procedures undertaken to select the vendor as being in accordance with Executive Order 301. In the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year, an initial meeting was held between COMELEC and BRC to draft a Memorandum of Agreement for Modernization.
Two contracts were decided to be signed with BRC: one for the acquisition of eight (8) demo units, and another for the purchase of 492 units of canvassing equipment. The Commission had set to pilot the new election system in the coming May 1995 elections, which was still subject to Congressional approval. However, up to the end of the year, no contract was signed with BRC pending the passage of a law allowing for the use of a new election system. The COMELEC had two (2) demo units on loan from BRC which it used in conducting public demonstrations in Congress, the Senate, non-governmental
organizations and other interested organizations. Still awaiting the passage into law of the pilot modernization bill, the COMELEC set out with its information campaign of slowly introducing the new election system to the public. Public demonstrations were given to parties who invited the COMELEC demonstration team for presentations, lead by then MIS Director-in-Charge, Alwin Sta. Rosa. These demonstrations included those given before NGOs at the Galleria Suites at the Ortigas Center in Quezon City in February and before students of De La Salle University, Manila in March.
The new election system was also put in display in one of the booths at the March 15-16 Database Expo ’95 Exhibit that was held at the Hotel Nikko in Makati. The COMELEC demonstration team used the two BRC demo units in these presentations. Finally in May, Republic Act (RA) 8046 entitled “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Conduct a Nationwide Demonstration of a Computerized Election System and Pilot-Test It in the March 1996 Elections in the autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and for Other Purposes” was passed into law. COMELEC now has solid legal basis for its efforts.
After the passage of RA 8046 and with the change in COMELEC administration, COMELEC had to present the current modernization program to the newly-appointed Chairman Bernardo Pardo and Commissioner Teresita Flores. Aside from protocol, this was a necessary step since if the current modernization program was ever going to push though as planned, it would depend very highly on the support of the current top management and the direction it would be led to by the same. Public information efforts even led to the presentation of the new election system to Malacanang Palace in June, in the presence of then Pres.
Fidel Ramos and his Cabinet for budget discussions for the 1996 ARMM election. The new system was even demonstrated, a few days after the Malacanang presentation, in an ABC 5 television program named “Public Forum” which was hosted by UP Professor Randy David. As previously mentioned, with the change in COMELEC top administration, COMELEC had to repeat its pre-qualification and bidding procedures for the selection of an optical mark sense (OMR) machine beginning the last week of June when it promulgated Res. No.
95-2636, approving the pre-qualification criteria for the selection of an OMR machine which, among others, specified the type of equipment required by COMELEC, that is: 1. OMR, Mark Sense, Scanning or similar technology 2. passed government test for election purposes The same three (3) companies that figured in the previous year’s selection were shortlisted for this year’s selection. In October, Minute Res. No. 95-3542 clarified COMELEC’s biding requirement as to the number of machines needed in the ARMM election: “Per package of software/equipment should cover a maximum of two municipalities.
One package should consist of at least one machine which can finish the counting/canvassing in all municipalities within 24 hours; all provinces and/or district 48 hours; and a regional consolidation within 72 hours… “. The public bidding was conducted immediately afterwards, and after demonstrations and testing of the machines of the shortlisted suppliers, which included a voting test conducted on selected COMELEC personnel to determine the acceptability and ease of use of the suppliers’ sample ballots, COMELEC accepted the bid of AIS by November in Min.
Res. No. 95-3785. The new machine was presented to the public in public hearings conducted in La Union and Baguio City by the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, chaired by then Rizal-2nd District Representative Emigdio Tanjuatco. On December 29, RA 8176 was passed postponing the March 1996 ARMM elections to September 9, 1996, giving the COMELEC more time to prepare for the country’s first computerized election. Other demonstrations that were held before the year ended, using the BRC demo units, included those given before: 1.
representatives from the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) in July 2. students of the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, also in July 3. representatives of NAMFREL, also in July 4. the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, chaired by then Rizal-2nd District Representative Emigdio Tanjuatco, in August. With the ARMM elections now just nine months away, the contract with the winning bidder for the computerized election system was signed in the first half of January.
Forty-two (42) model 150s of AIS were delivered to the COMELEC by March, underwent acceptance testing procedures, and were completely accepted by April. Still in line with the public information campaign concerning the new election system, demonstrations were still conducted beginning early this year: * to DAP representatives, in January * to the COMELEC Senior Staff, since there was a new machine, also in January * to law students of Ateneo de Manila University in Makati City, also in January, which was presented by then Commissioners Regalado Maambong and Teresita Flores.
It was a timely opportunity to present the advantages of an automated election system because then losing-candidate-for-Senator in the 1995 elections, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. , was also there to present the findings of his case regarding the Dagdag-Bawas issue; * to the voting public in the municipalities of Morong, Antipolo and San Mateo, all in the province of Rizal, in March, as part of the public hearings being conducted by Rep.
Tanjuatco’s House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms; and * before NGOs at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati City in April, comprising of the following organizations: a. Manindigan b. Konsiyensiya ng Bayan c. CAAP d. Foundation for Clean Elections Former Sen. Pimentel was again also there to present the status of his dagdag-bawas case. * public hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms in Davao City and Mati, Davao Oriental in May * at then National Assembly of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP)
on May 31, the political party of Rep. Tanjuatco, at the Trader’s Hotel, Manila * before technical representatives of NAMFREL in June * before Career Executive Service Officers (CESO) at the CES building in Quezon City in June * in the Modernization Demo Room in the MIS office, which was made operational and had the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms and the PCS as the first visitors in August A cable channel, CityNet, even videotaped the new machine in operation in June. Starting last week of April, technical preparations for the ARMM elections began.
The winning supplier sent qualified representatives to conduct demonstrations and respond to questions regarding their election system before COMELEC personnel, the Oversight Committee, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media. The National Printing Office (NPO) was also site inspected by the AIS representatives to verify if the facilities and the personnel were up to the task of printing the new computerized ballots, both of which proved satisfactory to the visiting supplier’s representatives.
With a few instructions and reminders on the important points for consideration in printing ballots for reading by an OMR, AIS accredited NPO’s ability to accomplish the task. The COMELEC’s Management Information System (MIS) personnel underwent technical training from another set of AIS representatives here in Manila in May. The training included operation of the following AIS software: 1.
Ballot Definition System (BDS), which is used to input and process information on the candidate names and their political parties, positions being run for and jurisdictions of the election, with the end objective of producing a ballot-proof that would be used by NPO in printing the official ballots; 2. Election Programming System (EPS), which is used to process the information inputted in BDS and burn them into an EPROM chip that would be used in the AIS 150s on election day; and 3.
Election Reporting System (ERS), which is used to generate the election reports required by law on election day Essentially, COMELEC had been trained to handle everything from ballot-proof preparation to generation of election reports. However, the task of physically ensuring the machines would be in running condition was still handled by AIS, with the aid of a local counterpart, Telecommunications and Computer Technologies, Inc. (TCTI), whose two top technicians were trained in the supplier’s company location in Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
With the purchase of 42 machines for the nearing ARMM elections, and the plan to send one COMELEC machine operator for each machine for the forthcoming ARMM elections, there was now a need to provide at least 42 assisting technical personnel from the COMELEC main office. Since the MIS office was operating with ten (10) personnel only, a search was made among the different departments and offices of the COMELEC for personnel with knowledge on computer operation.
In July, those who qualified in the search were trained on the operation of the automated vote counting machine by AIS presentatives, and on the operation of the ERS by the MIS personnel who had just undergone training themselves two months before. Three weeks before election day, ARMM field officials and assisting COMELEC field personnel were given the same training. On the eve of September 9, election day, the new computerized election system was put to the test.
As projected, the winning candidates for the Regional Assemblymen, district level, were proclaimed after 48 hours, and the winning gubernatorial and vice-gubernatorial races were proclaimed after 72 hours. The COMELEC, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) all declared the recently-concluded pilot-testing of the computerized election system as a success.
Nationwide demonstrations were simultaneously conducted afterwards by different groups of COMELEC personnel who were involved in the recently accomplished pilot testing. This was done from October to December to comply with the requirements of RA 8046. The new system was demonstrated to COMELEC’s field officials first, aiming to gain acceptance of the new system in-house of COMELEC before showcasing it to the general public. Targeted next were the provincial capitals and major cities, primarily local government officials. The demonstrations were open to the public.
The whole year had been a long wait for the passage of the nationwide modernization bill into law by both houses of Congress. While on the wait, the COMELEC busied itself with conferences with the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms and several demonstrations before the House of Representatives at the invitation of the Committee, and with public demonstrations to group of individuals who gave invitations to the COMELEC for the same purpose. These demonstrations included those given before: 1. the Liberal Party (LP), Sen. Pimentel’s political party, in Tagaytay City in January; 2.
representatives from NAMFREL, PPCRV, Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP), and from the offices of several Senators in February. This demonstration was requested by the House Committee on Suffrage; and 3. the regional election directors from the COMELEC field offices in March. In February, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) presented an international symposium entitled “Asian Democracy in Transition: A Symposium on Asian Elections in the 21st Century” at the Diamond Hotel, Manila which was attended by representatives from different Asian countries.
As a result of this, the COMELEC was able to present the results of the past pilot testing of its automated election system in the ARMM last September 9, 1996 to the following delegations that came to COMELEC for a demonstration included representatives from the countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Korea, and Vietnam. On December 22, RA 8436, entitled “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Use an Automated Election System in the May 11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in Subsequent National and Local Electoral Exercises, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes”, was finally passed into law.
In January, as required by RA 8436, the Advisory Council was created, composed of technical experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP), the University of the Philippines (UP), and two representatives from the private sector as recommended by the Philippine Computer Society (PCS). A Technical Ad-Hoc Committee was also established, composed of one representative each from the Senate, House of Representatives, DOST and COMELEC. Once again, a demonstration of the pilot-tested automated election system was presented by the COMELEC to these newly-created groups.
In February, with the concurrence of the Advisory Council and for lack of sufficient preparation time and funding, the automated election system was decided to be used only in the ARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi for the May 11, 1998 National and Local Elections. Twenty-six (26) additional machines from AIS were to be bought to complement the current forty-two (42) that COMELEC already owns, which were to be upgraded to suit the requirements of RA 8436. Pressed for time, in a matter of two months, preparations for the automated election in the ARMM were made.
The technical trainings, which were only a refresher course, were only held in March. The ballot face, EPROM chips, precinct headers and official ballots were able to be prepared at around half of March until the end of April. The field trainings were conducted around two weeks before election day. Due to the same reason of tmie constraint and due to the fact the machines were already owned by COMELEC, the Advisory Council, with the concurrence of COMELEC and DOST, also recommended, in April, that the requirement of RA 8436 that the machines to be used for the automated counting of votes in ARMM for May 11 be pre-tested by DOST be by-passed.
For this election, two ballots were prepared for each ARMM voter: one for the national positions: President, Vice-President, Senators and Party-List Representatives; and the other for local positions: Congressman, Governor, Vice-Governor, Provincial Board Members, Mayor, Vice-Mayor, and Councilors. Ballots for the province of Sulu were re-counted at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) due to an error in NPO’s printing procedure. Results in several municipalities in Lanao del Sur were re-counted manually also due to errors in printing of the ballots and procedural errors.
In November, ten counting machines were authorized to be transported to DOST for testing purposes in MR 98-3179. The ballots to be used for this test were to be taken from the leftover ballots for the recently concluded May elections with the National Printing Office (NPO). This was during the leadership of Commissioner-in-Charge for Modernization Project Luzviminda G. Tancangco, who was appointed to the COMELEC in August by then President Joseph Estrada. In January, test ballots were prepared for the authorized testing of the machines by DOST which took place in February.
By this time, the COMELEC again had another change in leadership with Chairman Bernardo Pardo being promoted to the Supreme Court as one of the Associate Justices. He was replaced by then Chairperson Harriet Demetriou. After four days of testing, the testing team of DOST recommended for the suspension of the same due to some technical problems with the machines that were encountered during the test, which were brought about by the fact that the machines were directly brought to the DOST from the COMELEC’s storage room without undergoing maintenance procedures, a prerequisite prior to effective running of the machines.
AIS, which now went with the name of Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), together with its local counterpart, TCTI, conducted a technical assessment on all 68 machines in April. It found out several machines needing replacement of certain parts, while majority were just in need of a minor tune up. The Commission on Elections started its efforts at modernizing or automating the electoral process way back in 1992, immedia