What is now preoccupying the Philippine Congress is the deactivation of the digital signature when transmitting the count from the PCOS machines. This is old stuff.
Below are excerpts from a letter submitted to the COMELEC on 30 April 2010, 10 days before the May 10 elections, by the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections, a poll watchdog of which I am one of the convenors. Likewise we filed on May 7 a petition for prohibition and mandamus with the Supreme Court. Sadly the COMELEC brushed this aside and the Court junked the petition.
And now, the legislators, along with the COMELEC [both getting their salaries and perks from people’s taxes] are getting heated up over the issue two weeks after the elections. We should be the ones getting raging mad over this gross incompetence
The letter was signed by Hon. Loretta Ann Rosales, Engr. Rodolfo Lozada, Atty. Al Vitangcol and Atty. Michelle Africa.
If only they listened, as servants of the people…
Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections
April 30, 2010
HONORABLE JOSE A.R. MELO
Commission on Elections
Palacio Del Gobernador
Re: Illegal Technical Processes Within the Automated Elections System
Dear Chairperson Melo,
We are requesting your good office to review two (2) major features of the Automated Elections System (AES), which are both illegal, and immediately take corrective measures to forestall possible future legal issues.
These two (2) AES features are the deactivation of the digital signature and the absence of a vote verification mechanism.
COMELEC Resolution No. 8786, the Revised General Instructions For The Board Of Election Inspectors (BEI), directs the BEI not to use the digital signature during the transmission of Election Returns (ER). This is explicit in Paragraphs (f) to (h) of Sec. 40, which states,
“Section 40. Counting of ballots and transmission of results; Procedure.
“x x x;
“f) Thereafter, the PCOS shall automatically count the votes and immediately display a message “WOULD YOU LIKE TO DIGITALLY SIGN THE TRANSMISSION FILES WITH A BEI SIGNATURE KEY?”, with a “YES” or “NO” option;
“g) Press “NO” option. The PCOS will display “ARE YOU SURE YOU DO NOT WANT TO APPLY A DIGITAL SIGNATURE?” with a “YES” and “NO” option;
“h) Press “YES” option. x x x;”
The removal of the digital signature made the transmitted Election Returns unofficial, per the requirement of the law.
The penultimate paragraph of Section 22 of Republic Act No. 8436, as amended, reads as follows:
“SEC. 22. Election Returns. – Each copy of the printed election returns shall bear appropriate control marks to determine the time and place of printing. x x x.
“x x x
“The election returns transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as the basis for the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of a candidate.”
The law uses the word “and”, meaning that the transmitted election returns should come with a digital signature.
The absence of a vote verification mechanism in the PCOS machine is illegal and against the prevailing law.
Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8436, as amended, mandates the vote verification mechanism in the AES. To wit,
“Sec. 15. Official Ballot. – The Commission shall prescribe the format of x x x the size and form of the official ballot, which shall contain the titles of the positions to be filled and/or the propositions to be voted upon in an initiative, referendum or plebiscite. x x x and to allow the voter to review and change all ballot choices prior to completing and casting his or her ballot. x x x
The law clearly stipulates that the voter should be able to review and change his/her ballot choices prior to completing and casting his or her ballot. The absence of this voting mechanism defies the aforementioned provision.
It is still within your solemn duty to correct these legal flaws vis-à-vis the technical processes of the AES.
Thank you and anticipating your prompt and positive response.
On behalf of the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections, we remain
Very truly yours,
Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento
Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer
Commissioner Lucenito N. Tagle
Commissioner Armando C. Velasco
Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph
Commissioner Gregorio Y. Larrazabal