By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) refused “to go down to the level of arguments with the prominent use of gutter language by the head of a Constitutional body – Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes.”
In a strongly worded statement, Bobby M. Tuazon, co-convener of AES Watch and director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), condemned the Comelec chair’s “offensive remarks” against election critics. Comelec has accused AES Watch, whose chair emeritus is former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., and CenPEG, headed by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, of “election sabotage.”
Tuazon also scored Brillantes’ “sexist remarks” and macho order to women leaders of AES Watch, who include AES Watch women co-conveners, Ms Maricor Akol, a reputable IT expert involved in IT professionals certification, and Ms Evita Jimenez, executive director of CenPEG and project research head of the popular Corruptionary publication.
Tuazon fired back that in fact, it is the Comelec, under Brillantes, that has failed to build public trust and confidence in the election system by its “repeated failure to comply with the election law and its fixation to a technology proven to be defective, unlicensed, and with a dismally-low accuracy.”
Worse, the Comelec is only repeating the mistakes already pointed out in 2010 elections, Tuazon said.
Comelec disdain of problem solvers scored
Tuazon said they are not just problem-oriented, as Comelec’s Brillantes has repeatedly insinuated.
AES Watch has, in fact, been offering the Comelec solutions to its problems. “Since the last elections, we have sought dialogs with the Comelec, gone to congressional hearings with proposed legislative enhancements for poll automation, studied meticulously the automation with reports copy furnished all major election stakeholders, and gone to the high court several times as well.”
“Non-disclosure of the source code to political parties and interested groups for independent review as provided for in the Poll Automation law for reasons only Chairman Brillantes knows is a major concern that should alarm stakeholders in the coming election,” Tuazon said.
Political parties like PDP-Laban for example had gone to the Comelec last January 2013 to exercise this right, only to be told that the source code is not available for review.
Brillantes, quoted by the media, argued, “There is no review if there is no source code,” adding that “the law does not provide for source code review in order for elections to proceed.”
The Comelec chairman’s inconsistent statements are themselves adding to confusion and uncertainties in the coming automated elections, Tuazon said. As far as AES Watch is concerned, Brillantes’ actions and statements fit more accurately his own accusations of election sabotage.
Comelec and Brillantes apparently just wanted to hold the 2013 elections using their flawed system – anybody who pointed at these flaws are “saboteurs.”
As Lito Averia, IT security expert, Congress resource person on IT matters, and election observer for more than 20 years, asked, “How does the Comelec chair define ‘election sabotage?’”
He reiterated that they are “merely asking questions and raising issues which the Comelec continues to ignore.”
Questionable software to be used in 2013 elections
The Comelec chairman today insisted that the Philippine government owns the PCOS machines per the option to purchase signed with Smartmatic in March 2012.
This does not mean though that the Philippine government is also the owner of the software the machine will use. “Brillantes is the one who is ignorant, especially in software licensing,” Averia said.
Even non-lawyers in the IT industry, said Averia, understand that proprietary software like MSOffice, for instance, is not sold with the machine, though one has paid for it. “What one buys is a license to use. Comelec cannot claim to have bought the software that came with the PCOS in March 2012. It is only a user of the software AND only for the 2010 national and local elections at that.”
“The basic civil law principle is you cannot sell what you do not own. If the owner gives you authority to sell, there is still a limit to what you can sell, depending on what is written in the authorization,” AES Watch also clarified.
With the 2009 agreement – where the license to use the poll technology was given to Smartmatic only for 2010 – having been terminated in May 2012 by the real owner of the technology, Dominion Voting Systems, the Venezuelan sales company (Smartmatic) has lost its right to the software, AES Watch said.
Smartmatic has also lost its access to the program system that is critically needed to correct the program errors and bugs that both Comelec and Smartmatic reluctantly admitted only in 2012, Tuazon said.
Because of these circumstances, Brillantes announced last week that Comelec will use instead the program system designed for the aborted 2011 ARMM election reportedly supplied by Smartmatic. But the use of the 2011 program is not covered by the 2009 licensing agreement precisely because the latter only spoke of the 2010 elections, Tuazon explained.
In a forum held Monday at UP Alumni center, AES Watch distributed information materials like Primers, Alerts and Poll watch guides on the automated elections for May 13, 2013.