1. "

    Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, chair of the committee, said Sunday the ERs, on which the certificates of canvass (CoCs) are based for proclaiming the next president and vice president, had no digital signatures as defined by the country’s e-Commerce Law.
    The Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 8792) gives legal recognition to electronic documents so long as these can be authenticated.

    But Locsin was hopeful that the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, acting as the national board of canvassers for the presidential and vice presidential races, would just “close its eyes” on this “inadvertent mistake” and vote to recognize all the ERs.

    “The oversight is so pervasive, in fact universal, that all the ERs are worthless and it is as if the elections did not take place. I don’t think my peers would allow this to happen. They will choose not to raise any questions and ignore this,” he said.

    "
    — 

    Election Returns Flawed - Says Locsin - Inquirer

    Hmmmmm…this sounds like a problem. So, technically the digital signature that the machine imprinted on the ERs does not conform with the law, because it was a not a unique signature assigned to each BEI?

    If I remember correctly, this problem was identified leading up to the elections and was dismissed by the Comelec/Smartmatic and the Oversight Committee.

    The question is, does the unique machine signature ensure enough security, as opposed to a unique BEI signature. The BEI signature does not necessarily mean that the ER was secure either: the BEI could easily hand off that signature to someone else (since usually its some sort of keyed alphanumeric entry). 

    Is this our new hanging chad (reference to the disputed Florida Bush/Gore election)? I think that the SC should rule on whether a machine generated signature vs. a BEI signature fulfills the necessary provision.

    For example, if the signature is not imprinted on the ER until the BEI does whatever the process is, does that technically qualify?

     

  2. Down the rabbit hole we go…

    It would be ever so nice if something made sense for a change

    - Alice

    I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, I would write leading up to the elections tomorrow. Most all of us have made our choices; hopefully according to our personal conscience and beliefs. All that is left is to mark our choices and hope they are counted accordingly. A big hope, but in the land renowned for its positivity, for today and tomorrow I’m choosing to remain positive (and prepare for the worst, of course). You would think this would be difficult with the alcohol ban and all, but as the old saying goes: Always be prepared…or maybe always plan ahead? 

    What is the use of repeating all that stuff, if you don’t explain it as you go? It’s by far the most confusing thing I’ve ever heard!

    - The Mock Turtle

    The talking heads of television and print have been having a field day dissecting all of the potential possibilities and scenarios that may happen tomorrow. Strangely, none of said what would happen if everything went according to plan. To be perfectly honest, neither have I; especially with all of the uncertainties that have been cropping up in the last week and months.

    Shock and awe maybe? Gasps of goodness? But hey, if everything does go well tomorrow, the restaurants and bars should be open late because we will all be out toasting to divine intervention. Although I would still think Smartmatic and the Comelec gots some explaining to do.

    I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

    - Alice

    So, anyway, I will be doing my civic duty bright and early tomorrow morning and then volunteering to help support the Board of Election Inspectors at my barangay. Do I know what I’m going to be doing? Nope. Not a damn thing. Uncertainty is the spice of life as they always say.

    Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.

    - Doorknob

    And that seems to be the crux of the matter; since the situation with automated polls has been constantly in flux, none of us really quite knows what tomorrow will bring. Even when it comes to the elected positions; we quite don’t know what to expect as well.

    According to the top 3 reputable polls, Noynoy is in the lead by a comfortable margin. Yet, there are two strangely unremarked pollsters that have Villar and Gibo either close or outright in the lead: Villar slightly behind Noynoy and Gibo comfortably ahead. Binay has overtaken Roxas and who knows what will happen in the Senatorial race (other than the expected duo of Revilla and Estrada).

    Already we are seeing reports of pre-election violence; PCOS machines and classrooms on fire; vote-buying and accusations of harassment and intimidation. What will give first? Will the hackneyed discourse of the forces of good arrayed against the forces of evil again become the story of the day? The worst possible outcome remains the failure of elections.

    Either way, no matter who is elected, the only possible scenario is a clean election. Nothing can be done in the future if there is no untainted mandate - and in this we do not mean a mandate of the majority (an almost impossible scenario), but an election relatively untouched. Let’s say, elections the exact opposite of 1953, 1986 (for that matter all Martial Law elections) and 2004. 

    Over all of this uncertainty continues to hang the specter of machine politics and its ability to subvert elections. Surprises and strangeness are the norm here and likely will be tomorrow.

    Tut, tut, child! Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it!

    - The Duchess

    It seems we’ve been living in a Wonderland (or Underland as the latest movie revised) of electioneering, sloganeering - what with Mad Hatters run amok, our very own miniature Queen of Hearts, Tweedledee/Tweedledumb and the rest of the Tweedle family, the Cheshire cat(s) and all manner of insanity running lose - and I have the sneaking suspicion we ain’t seen nothing yet.

    No wonder you’re late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow.

    - The Mad Hatter

    And you cannot help but feel, that no matter what happens tomorrow it is only the beginning. After that comes the counts, then the recounts and recriminations, then the jockeying for power and the delicate balancing act of the transition of power. With the animosity that has built up between the current admin the general electorate…well anything can and will happen.

    Oh yes, it is a Wonderland and I can’t help feeling, at the same time, we’re stepping through the looking glass.

    Here. We. Go. Time to stand up and elect our future representatives.

    A cat may look at a king. I’ve read that in some book, but I don’t remember where.

    - Alice

     

  3. Magno should pay attention to the rest of the world…

    Magno continues to push the party line; not even paying attention to trends in how elections are run in the rest of the world. For someone who continually pushes the hackneyed free trade line; his awareness of non-economic related world issues is staggering.

    Glitch - FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno | The Philippine Star News Opinion

    We went only halfway into the automation process. Instead of going fully digital, touchscreens and all, we decided we wanted paper ballots and a machine that counts them and then transmits the canvass wirelessly.

    This brilliant line came courtesy of Magno’s part hit-piece on Comelec and admin critics/Part apology on behalf Comelec and admin/part snarktacular and smug column from today.

    Shame on Magno.

    First, if he had done his research he would know that almost every country in the world that has gone to touchscreen voting has instead reverted back to paper ballots and machine counted. Simply, they are less prone to voter intimidation and disenfranchisement.

    On June 1, 2009 Newsweek ran an article concerning automated (touchscreen) voting:

    When Ireland embarked on an ambitious e-voting scheme in 2006 that would dispense with “stupid old pencils,” as then–prime minister Bertie Ahern put it, in favor of fancy touchscreen voting machines, it seemed that the nation was embracing its technological future. Three years and €51 million later, in April, the government scrapped the entire initiative. High costs were one concern—finishing the project would take another €28 million. But what doomed the effort was a lack of trust: the electorate just didn’t like that the machines would record their votes as mere electronic blips, with no tangible record.

    We Do Not Trust Machines: The People Reject Electronic Voting

    Lack of transparency? No voting record? Ireland rejecting it?

    Great to know that Alex Magno obviously knows more about implementing a touchscreen automated voting system than the entire country of Ireland. A country that spent 51 million pounds and still couldn’t get the damn system to work.

    What is important to note there is: the people did not understand the system, so they shut. it. down. That is respecting the electorate. Something that has been woefully absent here. Magno’s column is a perfect example. They look at the electorate as sheep; little automatons there to do their bidding (and yes I am including Magno with the administration). Respect them? Pshaw.

    Continuing from the same Newsweek article:

    One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or a Luddite to understand the fallibility of electronic voting machines. As most PC users by now know, computers have bugs, and can be hacked. We take on this security risk in banking, shopping and e-mailing, but the ballot box must be perfectly sealed.

    At least that’s what European voters seem to be saying. Electronic voting machines do not meet this standard.

    A backlash against e-voting is brewing all over the continent. After almost two years of deliberations, Germany’s Supreme Court ruled in March that e-voting was unconstitutional because the average citizen could not be expected to understand the exact steps involved in the recording and tallying of votes. 

    What people like him and his ilk forget is that the voting process must be understandable by the voter. That is a fundamental part of voting. This is very clearly why this process was doomed from the start: voter education was completely lacking. The automated process was never properly explained to the vast majority of the population; essentially leaving the election (on the electorate side) open to suggestion, coercion and fraud.

    Whether it’s new and shiny or not, the election process must be understood by the people. So, hinting with a bit of sneer that we did not go about the process properly and should have gone to shiny touchscreen machines is flawed as an argument. You do not shift a population from paper ballots to touchscreens; especially when more educated populations are categorically rejecting touchscreen machines in favor of paper ballots.

    While I have many issues with the implementation of the system by the Comelec; they did do something right in the very beginning. They chose a paper ballot system: a system that is inherently more secure than a touchscreen fully automated system by dint of there being a paper trail and additional redundancies built in. The problem is, the Comelec has been systematically removing those redundancies and security measures in place to ensure an accurate balloting.

    That is the issue that Magno and other columnists seem to be overlooking. All of us have wanted the automated polling to work well. The thing is there have been issues cropping up left and right; issues identified by international non-partisan groups as well. Were we supposed to ignore them? Stick our heads in the sand? 

    Has that not been the problem with this country? Not enough people taking an active interest in the machinations of the government.

    None of us wanted the damn thing to fail, all of us still hope it will succeed. What we have been doing is identifying the issues in the hopes that the Comelec will take notice and address them.

    They haven’t, and here we are. Still praying, still hoping. In the words of a good friend: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

    It’s what all of us have been doing. And maybe it’s a difference of opinion. For us, the worst that could happen is a failure of elections and the perpetuation of GMA.

    For Magno and others? Maybe that’s the best case scenario.

     

  4. Between a rock and the Constitution

    Here’s the problem with those claims of delaying the election by two weeks:

    Section 8. Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election of the Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May.

    - Philippine Constitution

    And

    Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for President and Vice-President shall be held on the second Monday of May.

    - Philippine Constitution

    So here’s the problem, there are no laws on the books that will allow for a postponement of the May 10 election.

    Nor should there be. Opening up literally a ‘midnight’ passing of laws to shift/change the election creates a horrible horrible precedent.

    The schedule has been known for years; the failure to properly adhere to that schedule will have to be reviewed post-June 30. In this, as much as I hate to say it, a commission needs to be set up to review the failures of the Comelec and the private partners to meet their Constitutionally and legally mandated obligations.

    Hell, even if the automated elections go off correctly (by some miracle) a commission still needs to be set up to evaluate whether Smartmatic-TIM should be sued. Let’s not forget, that some of the current issues are a result of human error: Their error.

    So, where does this leave us? Constitutionally unable to shift the election, unless the House and Senate convene Thursday to promulgate the necessary law to delay.

    Instead though, the Comelec should adopt the measures that everyone has been screaming for since this folly was announced: Partial automated elections.

    High-value areas (urban and so forth) and at risk areas (ARMM) should remain automated. This will significantly reduce the time needed to fix the failed CF cards and test the PCOS machines.

    Rural areas and less populated areas should be shifted to a manual count. This would be easier to implement, and quite honestly fairer. Do not forget that for the majority of the population the whole process of automated voting remains opaque. They are more familiar with manual balloting.

    Further, those areas that require a satellite hookup should also revert to a manual count. Last I read, that covers about 10,000 machines. Does this open up more risks for cheating? Of course. But better to try and nip in the bud cheating via random manual audits than a 100% failure of elections.

    Those areas that remain automated must adopt a more stringent parallel count/auditing guidelines. Earlier I advocated a 5% random parallel manual count. This should definitely but upped and coupled with third party verification of the counts via a random manual audit on the same day.

    Paranoid? Definitely. But necessary when taking into account the various issues that keep piling on, and not diminishing.


     

  5. Ok…so I’m trying to figure this out…

    Just watching the news and Smartmatic claims that the CF cards that are installed in the computer were improperly “configured” and thus miscounted the votes.:

    Human error led to the failure of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to correctly read votes for local positions during Monday’s mock polls, an official of poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM admitted Tuesday.

    Smartmatic Southeast Asia president Cesar Flores said the company failed to properly configure compact flash disks of the PCOS machines to properly read the votes for the local races because of a difference in the layouts of the national and local ballots.

    He said the PCOS machine incorrectly read the local ballot “because the local ballot has double spacing. If you look at the national [ballot], they are all single spaced.”

    - Smartmatic admits error in configuring PCOS flash cards - ABS News

    Now, I may not be the smartest cookie in the cookie jar (mmmmm…cookie), but that sounds a little alarming.

    I’ll suspend disbelief and go with the “Oops…stupid human error” explanation, but it is more than just a little disconcerting that issues relating to the programming of the PCOS machines are propping up 6 days before elections.

    More than that, it is more than a little disturbing that something as simple to remove or replace as a CF (compact flash) card contains instructions relating to how the machine reads the votes.

    If the machine is this reliant on instructions on a removable CF card, is that not an easily exploitable security risk?

    God, I really hate being this paranoid.