Comelec restores 3rd server in automated polls

Posted at 11/21/12 7:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will restore a security mechanism in the automated election system which it earlier decided to discard.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body is set to reverse its earlier decision to cut down the number of transmission servers in the 2013 elections from 3 to 2.

He revealed one of the commissioners who voted to reduce the number of servers, Christian Robert Lim, will ask for a revote and reverse his vote.

The poll body caved into the grilling of members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System over the removal of the server, which is meant to bolster the security and integrity of the results of the elections.

Transmission servers collect the election returns from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and consolidate the results.

In 2010, one server went to the board of canvassers, while the Comelec central office and the KBP were given a server each as guides to countercheck the results transmitted in the server of the boards of canvassers.
In the hearing, JCOC chairman Alan Peter Cayetano asked Brillantes to justify why the poll body took away the KBP server for the 2013 elections.

The Comelec central server will serve as the gateway server from which the KBP  and other parties can get their copies of the election returns.

Cayetano pointed out that the other servers are needed to show that there are no manipulation of results as the results in each server can be checked against each other. He pointed out the servers serve the interest of fairness and credibility.

Brillantes, however, noted that the results from the server of the canvassing boards are the ones used in proclaiming winners.

Cayetano then countered that by cutting down on the number of servers, the Comelec increases the chance it will get incomplete data.

Missing data

Brillantes said there is no prohibition against fewer servers and explained that data may not be transmitted across all 3 servers at the same time and may lead to mis-transmissions.

He said any missing data in other servers can be cross checked with the server of the canvassing boards as well as the hard copies of the election returns.

House panel chairman Elpidio Barzaga inquired if it would it be hard to restore the servers.

Brillantes, however, countered that the public may be more misinformed if the data presented are not complete, especially in terms of the totaling of votes. 

Cayetano explained that it would be easier to explain to the public that there are delays in the transmission of results.

Senator Koko Pimentel said the law actually requires 6 servers.

Smartmatic President Cesar Flores explained that while it is an advantage to have another redundant server to guarantee the availability of data, it doesn't guarantee the data will arrive at all servers.

He said data in the transmission servers will be faithful to the data in the PCOS machines, making the issue of the number of servers "more political and procedural."

He said that in 2010, the KBP server had 10-12 users with the same data that can also be sourced from the Comelec server.

Pablo Manalastas of watchdog CENPEG noted that based on his study, 8,000 PCOS machines failed to transmit results in the 2010 elections, while 13,000 failed to transmit data for certain positions.

Flores explained that when PCOS machines cannot transmit, the contingency plan is to bring the compact flash cards of the machines to the canvassing boards.