Brillantes: Election source code reviewed

Posted at 02/13/2013 5:13 PM | Updated as of 02/13/2013 8:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes on Wednesday said the source code of the automated election system to be used in the May 2013 elections has been inspected by a third-party reviewer.

Brillantes said SysTest Labs Inc.'s (SLI) review was used as basis for the Comelec Technical Evaluation Committee's (TEC) recommendation for the technology to be used in the mid-term elections.

"In turn, SLI's finding that the AES is operationally suitable for use, among others, is the basis of TEC's favorable recommendation," he said on Twitter.

Brillantes, however, said poll watchdogs and political parties are not allowed to review the source code without approval of Dominion Voting Systems Inc., which owns the software.

Earlier in the day, Brillantes noted that the TEC's positive review came with reservations because of the absence of a source code review.

"Conclusion is very positive ang results, except for reservation sa source code. Wala nang manual. No way, manual is already impossible with the certification issued by TEC. We will proceed with automated, whether the source code is there or not," he said.

"The TEC report validates us. So no need (for mock elections)," he added.

Source code

The source code is the human readable instructions for how the PCOS machines will function on election day.

Under the law, the source code should be opened for review 90 days before the elections.

Election watchdogs note that the source code review is a crucial check against cheating.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman said, "We don't know if the machine read our ballot and counted the votes correctly. We don't see how they’re done. Not like the manual counting in front of the public. So the only way we can be confident that the results are correct is if we can review the source code. It's like saying, ‘OK, we trust the way you counted as well as the results you submitted to our country. We now have our new leaders. Thank you.’"

Lagman's fellow convenor in transparentelections.org.ph, Lito Averria, said, "If you can’t trust the source code, you can’t trust what is installed in the machines. Questionable accuracy and integrity of the system."

Kontra Daya's Renato Reyes said, "We cannot say with certainty that the results will be accurate or that there will be adequate safeguards when it comes to the integrity of the results. One disturbing issue now is the discrepancy between the PCOS count and the manual count."

Brillantes agreed with their concerns about the source code.

"I agree, if we have the source code, it boosts the credibility of elections,” he said.

However, he refused to answer yet if this will open the doors to cheating.

"I will answer that after I finish negotiating with Dominion,” he said.

Bargaining chip

Brillantes said he is still talking to Dominion, but the problem is he fears the Philippine election has become a pawn or bargaining chip in the rivalry between Smartmatic and Dominion.

"The message I'd like to say is since the TEC report as it appears to be ay okay, ‘di na namin problema ang source code. We can use TEC report as justification na ‘di magiging significant ang source code. I’m still continuing to negotiate with Dominion. It would be better kung makuha pa rin. Nu’ng 2010, walang nakakita ng source code, nobody knew what’s in the central bank source code,” he said.

The poll chief warned Dominion that the Comelec will go after them, so they should instead just work with Comelec.

While he concedes the Comelec doesn't intend to sue Dominion yet, they can go around the world and warn other countries about Dominion's business.

Brillantes noted that the JCOC merely needs to be given a report of the TEC to proceed with the elections.

Brillantes said the automated election system in the midterm election has 48 enhancements that were already certified for the 2011 ARMM elections.

The only certification needed is for 8 enhancements that were requested for the 2013 elections.

Lawsuits

Brillantes said the lawsuits between the 2 rival companies were a contingency they were not prepared for.

Brillantes previously offered to put some $10 million Dominion wants to collect from Smartmatic in escrow in exchange for Dominion releasing the source code.

He noted that the impasse over the source code of the PCOS machines bought by the Comelec for the 2013 election comes after earlier battles between Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems Inc. overseas.

"That's in fact the case in Delaware, the fight in Puerto Rico and Mongolia. Nasabit ang Pilipinas, pero ‘di ko naman minamasama masyado, I'm still talking to them,” he said.

The source code is the human readable instruction software for the PCOS machines and consolidation and canvassing systems that will be used in the election.

The Automated Election Law requires that the source code be open to review 90 days before the election.

Asked if he thought the legal battle was a portent of Dominion's possible entry into the Philippines as provider of election systems in the 2016 elections, Brillantes said, "They're only interested in one thing--money." -- with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News