PCOS machine: Is it a boon or bane to free and honest polls?

This was sent via e-mail to AES Watch by a concerned citizen in N. Cotabato

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Two days after the elections, the people of North Cotabato could not still seemingly understand the results of the recent polls.

The results do not seem to speak of the huge crowds which filled our rallies who came not because of money or rice and who stood in the rain with empty stomachs.

I believe that if a person could withstand hunger for four hours just to see and listen to their political leader, it is most likely that he will be able to withstand the temptation of rice and money.

The best example of this controversy is the town of Pigcawayan where an estimated 14,000 attended last big rally of gubernatorial bet Manny Piñol and displayed so much emotion during his speech that we believe at least 90 per cent of the crowd wanted him back as their Governor.

When the votes were counted, Piñol lost by almost 2,000 votes in a town where he have never lost an election since he entered politics.

Indeed, money and rice flowed but I estimated that these would have only swayed a certain percentage of the voters.

The next target of suspicion would be the PCOS machines.

My IT Team which handled made the following observations during the election:

1. A huge number of PCOS machines did not work. In the town of Makilala alone, 12 PCOS machines out of the 61 units assigned there did not work. That is roughly 20% of the PCOS machines which conked out prompting the BEIs to hold a manual voting.

2. In the town of Pikit, armed groups led by the barangay chairmen who were promised money just to defeat gubernatorial candidate Piñol, tampered with the PCOS machines cutting off the plastic seals protecting the CF Cards and inserted new CF cards. Witnesses said the results were different from the actual votes of the people in many villages.

3. My IT Group and other IT experts are now looking at the difference between the actual results of the elections based on the ERs retrieved by the watchers and the transmitted results. In one barangay for example, the transmitted results showed over 900 votes cast when the actual number of voters in the precinct was only over 600.

4. We are also looking into the earlier reports that there are 6,000 missing PCOS machines and these could have been used in pre-loading CF cards which could have been used in transmitting doctored results to the PBOC.

We will also use the results of our post election analysis in the advocacy that we are going to wage which is to STOP the use of the PCOS machines in Philippine elections and to find better ways of determining the will of the people.

Is it true that only 258 PCOS machines were ‘defective’?

This was written by Atty. Mel Magdamo, whistleblower on the overpriced ballot secrecy folders for the 2010 elections:

Dear Chairman Brillantes:

According to your advisers, only 258 PCOS machines were “defective” on election day.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/308359/news/nation/pcos-glitches-in-latest-elections-down-to-258-from-450-in-2010-polls

http://www.philstar.com/election-2013/2013/05/14/942071/brillantes-258-pcos-glitches-reported

According to another report, the breakdowns were “widespread.”

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/408657/pcos-machines-breakdown-widespread-claims-poll-watchdog

According to the “Eleksyon 2013” Action Center (“GMA Network” + “AMA Education System” Partnership) that was monitoring and receiving calls nationwide, there were “1,063 reports of PCOS machine problems as of late afternoon on election day.”

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/308351/scitech/technology/the-ghost-in-the-pcos-machine-is-there-a-better-alternative

Please remember, dear Chairman, that we were together in the GMA Network News Room early in the morning of election day. I was personally present when the GMA+AMA action center team members were gathering reports nationwide. In fact, many times, I myself had to answer calls from angry voters demanding explanations for malfunctioning and non-functioning PCOS machines.

PINAGMUMURA AKO ng mga callers and I ended up defending Comelec.

Shall we suspect the GMA+AMA partnership as harboring a motive to exaggerate or sensationalize?

I saw their methods. Their data input monitors were in accordance with the best practices of information & communications technology. Their call center agents were idealistic and hardworking. To all appearances, they were telling the truth and were even conservative in the estimate of “1,063 reports of PCOS machine problems as of late afternoon on election day.”

Dear Chairman, who gave you the advise that only 258 PCOS machines were “defective”?

I challenge your advisers to a public forum debate on the methodology of quantifying defects, for the sake of not repeating the same in the future (Section 9 of the Electoral Reforms Law encourages public forum debates).

Sincerely yours,

Atty. Melchor Magdamo

What Went Wrong with COMELEC’s Final Testing and Sealing of PCOS

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Photo by @jcmaningat.

One does not simply engage in a war unprepared aside from COMELEC.

Seven days prior to the May 13 elections, volunteers from the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) and Automated Elections (AES) Watch trooped to the UP Integrated School to observe the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

First-hand experiences and incident reports recorded nationwide affirm the stark and bitter realities that the COMELEC has always been ridiculously trying to conceal: the 2013 automated elections is nothing but a concrete testimony to the blatant unpreparedness of the country when it comes to modernizing its electoral processes and procedures.

The Final Testing and Sealing at the UP Integrated School, along with the rest of clustered precincts in cities located in the National Capital Region, was slated on May 6 at exactly eight in the morning. Members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), consisting of public school teachers and government officials, arrived at the school on time yet the lack of authorized poll watchers delayed the FTS. At around 10am, the FTS was centralized in order to pool the very few number of poll watchers and concerned citizens who will witness the process.

Problems came surfacing one after another during and after the installation of PCOS machines. Technical glitches involved the malfunctioning touchscreen technology that hindered some BEIS from efficiently keying in their codes. Some had to press the screen multiple times for the touch to register.

For another, lack of plastic seals that will ensure PCOS security after the FTS were missing from the packages so BEIS have to resort to the use of masking tapes. This does not only meant entail lesser security measures for PCOS machines but it also entail legality issues.

Lastly, the COMELEC did not provide recording materials like papers, pens and other related supplies. As such, BEIs have to resort to using scratch papers when they need to record the voters and poll watchers who attended the FTS.

COMELEC technicians that were present in FTS yesterday only numbered two and this proved to be insufficient to address the problems encountered by BEIs in numerous precincts in UPIS.

Another main issue that emerged from the FTS was the lack of training and seminars on automation among BEIs. Lack of proper briefing prior to the FTS brought confusion and miscommunication. More so, BEIs were not given training regarding the installation of PCOS batteries. In response to this issue, COMELEC is said to provide the training only after the FTS. BEIs also voiced out their concern on the apparent disregard for testing the transmission of election returns since this is the main highlight of the FTS.

Very few voters attended the FTS so volunteers had no other choice but to act as poll watchers and BEI assistants simultaneously. Instead of merely observing the FTS process, volunteers became part of the parallel manual count, too.

Given the issues and problems that arose from the FTS, it cannot be denied that massive electoral failures are about to take place on May 13. In this regard, the public needs to remain, as ever, vigilant and critical.

 

*This was written by an AES volunteer who monitored Monday’s final testing and sealing (FTS)