Comelec’s Automation to Worsen Election Fraud — Watchdog » PinoyPress
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Comelec’s Automation to Worsen Election Fraud — Watchdog

27 March 2009 12 Comments

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy (PSPA)
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)

When at most 70 percent of some 50 million voters go to the polls on May 10, 2010, they won’t be able to track how their votes are counted or canvassed. Winners in the national and local elections led by a new president will be declared two or three days after – and the whole nation will be at a loss in knowing whether the election results are real. Protests may probably be hard to file not only because of a lack of paper trail but also for lack of time.

The trouble with the Precinct Count Optical Sensor (PCOS) adopted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for use in the 2010 elections is that it does not guarantee an open, transparent, and credible automated system. Under the PCOS, the voter shades a ballot which s/he then drops inside a ballot box. Because voters are unfamiliar with the new technology voting will be slow and is extended to 6 p.m. after which all ballot boxes are brought to the precinct counting center – about 80,000 of them all over the country. Here, the ballots are fed into the optical mark reader (OMR) for counting and an election return (ER) is generated. The ERs are then electronically transmitted via the OMR simultaneously to the municipal, provincial, and national canvassing centers and, voila, the winners are proclaimed.

Engrossed with implementing RA 9369 which mandates the automation of elections, the Comelec appears to have glossed over the fact that Filipino voters have been looking for open, transparent, and credible elections. Making the counting and canvassing of election results fast may be a positive move which the poll body claims to be addressing. But unless elections are credible – which previous polls have been bereft of due to widespread fraud – then more and more voters will shy away from the polls.

Machine vulnerability

Poll automation feeds the wrong impression to the public that elections will be clean and credible. Because it is a machine, it is powerless against any fraud that takes place before, during, and after the elections. And, because it is just a machine, it is vulnerable to human intervention such as software attack, glitches, and other technical problems that could result in wholesale electronic cheating. (See for papers and powerpoints on election automation.) The high stakes in the 2010 elections, including choosing a new president, administration attempts to make sure that the next president is friendly to Gloria M. Arroyo, as well as the 17,000 national and local seats up for grabs by some 90,000 candidates will make fraud machineries sabotage the whole electoral process using both the traditional and modern technology.

If pilot tests determine what technology makes for credible elections, then the conduct and results of the August 2008 Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should make the OMR machine not suited for the coming polls. In that automated election, at least 23 common errors and other deficiencies were recorded in relation to the use of OMR and the Digital Recording Electronic (DRE). Based on the tests, the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) in its October 2008 report found the poll body technically ill-equipped to meet the complexities of an automated election system (AES). Meanwhile, ARMM poll watchers conceded that open cheating was rampant in many precincts thus effectively influencing the outcome of the elections. Incidentally, multinationals Smartmatic and Avante whose technologies were tested in the ARMM polls are again making a bid for the P11.3 billion election automation equipment to be used in the May 2010 polls.

Given the expected operations of fraud machineries in the coming elections, one way by which the present Comelec can at least minimize cheating is to make poll automation open, transparent, credible, and participatory. It does not make sense that the poll body has chosen the OMR which makes counting and canvassing of votes invisible to the eye with Comelec perhaps hoping that the poll officials, machines, vendors, software developers, electronic transmission systems, and other technical services can be trusted.

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  • OMR Dagdag Bawas Sleuth said:


    You may be quite correct in asserting that the P4-Billion OES would have been better and cheaper than the P11.3-Billion PCOS/OMR system that ComElec adopted for its EAS RFP. However, ComElec, Congress, and GMA disagreed. ComElec now has P$11.3 Billion to ‘play with’ for fully automating the 2010 elections.

    CenPEG & other fair-election advocates may now want to concentrate on ensuring that ComElec awards the EAS contract to the best EAS bidder and that the 2010 elections are as fair, transparent & honest as possible — under the existing circumstances. If the new ComElec PCOS/OMR EAS doesn’t work, CenPEG can then say “I told you so” (after CenPEG has done everything to ensure that the EAS works as well as possible).

    Some facts may be mistaken. You may want to demand that both the ComElec EAS RFP and RA-9369 be posted at the ComElec site & elsewhere. This may clear up any mistaken information that you may have.

    You may also want to demand strict compliance with RA-9369. Although ComElec may excuse bidder non-compliance with non-RA-9369-mandated RFP bid specifications, ComElec and the winning bidder MUST strictly comply with RA-9369.

    The largest budgeted item for 2010 EAS is P9.6 Billion for 80,000 specialized OMR scanners to read & count votes – one for each precinct. P120,000 each for a ONE-DAY RENTAL (or lease with option to purchase — but with NO consideration formally given to bidders whose OMR scanners are useful for other purposes).

    If 35,000,000 Filipinos vote in the 2010 elections, then each of the 80,000 OMR precinct-level scanners would only read & count 437 ballots each on average – or P275 per ballot (more than the daily income of many fellow Filipinos).

    In addition, there IS a paper trail for audit purposes. AFTER each voter inserts his or her PAPER ballot into the OMR scanner in EACH precinct, the voter drops the PAPER ballot into a sealed ballot box. PAPER ballots are available for any later election audit purposes. However, the OMR scanner will have already read & counted the ballot votes before each voter leaves each precinct.

    To guard against large-scale marking of OMR paper ballots before or after voting on Election Day, EAS ComElec RFP bidders MAY propose use of time & date stamps to mark each ballot with the time & date when each voter shows ID and picks up each ballot for voting; but the RFP may not (yet) require time & date stamping.

    The computer-connected OMR scanner that reads & counts the ballot votes may then register the time & date that each voter feeds each ballot into the OMR scanner for reading & counting. Computer code for this function is cheap, simple & transparent. Does the ComElec EAS RFP (yet) require such code? Demand it.

    Computer/software-assisted dagdag bawas? Long before AND immediately before Election Day, it may be YOUR job to examine the ComElec EAS RFP winning bidder’s computer code to ensure that computer/software-assisted dagdag bawas do not happen.

    You say: “The ERs are then electronically transmitted via the OMR simultaneously to the municipal, provincial, and national canvassing centers and, voila, the winners are proclaimed.”

    NO. OMR scanners have nothing to do with transmission of final vote counts & election returns via the public switched telephone network to three (3) separate & independent computer centers to process election returns. Teachers & others will also publicize & print such final vote counts & election returns in EACH precinct before and/or after transmission to the three (3) separate & independent processing centers for election returns.

    ComElec EAS RFP bidders MAY also propose posting election returns on a public website; however, ComElec may NOT (yet) have included public website posting as a requirement of the ComElec EAS RFP. Demand it.

    Although the electronic transmission of final vote counts & election returns may be “hacked” and changed, those present at each precinct will know the final vote counts & election returns; and eleven (11) persons will have official printed copies of election returns. Such official paper election returns may be the first line of defense in a PAPER-based election returns audit trail.

    You say: “It does not make sense that the poll body has chosen the OMR which makes counting and canvassing of votes invisible to the eye with Comelec perhaps hoping that the poll officials, machines, vendors, software developers, electronic transmission systems, and other technical services can be trusted.”

    NO. Neo-Luddites & we can physically SEE & count votes on OMR paper ballots. We can also use different scanners, different software, and different computers to RE-read OMR marks & RE-count ballot votes. The ComElec RFP may already require such re-scanning, re-reading & re-counting by different OMR scanners & computers on a limited, random basis.

    Many schools have computers & education-based OMR software to process & count OMR scans of student tests. Such computers & OMR software could be independent of that proposed by the winning ComElec RFP bidder.

    You say: “It does not make sense that the poll body has chosen the OMR, which makes counting and canvassing of votes invisible to the eye with Comelec perhaps hoping that the poll officials, [foreign?] machines, vendors, [foreign?] software developers, electronic transmission systems, and other technical services can be trusted… OES uses manual voting and open counting at the precinct level and uses tested computer technology developed by FILIPINO software programmers for the encoding, transmission, canvassing, and consolidation of election returns… OMR creates the danger of placing the fate of the elections in the hands of a profit-oriented multinational company”

    Unless & until you get the ComElec RFP, you won’t know whether the ComElec PCOS RFP ALSO requires most if not all such safeguards. Will you? You may only be guessing at the contents of the RFP. Demand a copy.

    In addition, are you implying that “FILIPINO software programmers” are NOT capable of computer-assisted dagdag bawas? Some of us may feel highly insulted!

    Although ComElec has already sold an official copy of their PCOS RFP for P1 Million to ten (10) prospective ComElec EAS RFP bidders (who are now the only ones who will be permitted to bid), YOU can still request an electronic copy of the ComElec RFP. Demand it.

    No “nuisance bidder” will be able to use a public copy of the RFP in order to bid. In addition, the ComElec RFP requires that each bidder post P115 Million in cash or Letter or Credit as a bid bond. Thus, ComElec objections to publishing the EAS RFP may now be frivolous.

    After you read the RFP requirements, you may then request changes in RFP specifications. It may not be too late to request minor changes that may make major differences in ensuring fair & honest 2010 elections.

    Your CenPEG site ( is excellent. However, you may want to change your focus from a request that ComElec reconsider OES for the 2010 elections to informed advocacy to ensure that the ComElec PCOS/OMR election automation system is the best EAS that money can buy. After all, the ComElec EAS certainly costs enough money; and Congress, GMA, and ComElec are spending OUR money!

  • thanatos said:

    I think u got this automation all wrong. Same mindset who wants to drag the Philippines back to stone age. Same as those congressmen who wants the automation to halt. Now it’s a go. YOu can just rally around the metropolis trying to drag the economy and business down. These activists do not represent the Filipino people. They represent their own organization.

  • Anti-Neo-Malthusianism Party-List Candidate said:


    Hi, Thanatos et al. CenPEG may not “want to drag the Philippines back to Stone Age.” Those who may have such a ‘death wish’ may be the Neo-Malthusians, the Neo-Luddites, and the Global-Warming hot-air orators.

    CenPEG favored adoption of the Open Election System (OES) for automation of the 2010 elections. CenPEG & others lost this battle. Congress, GMA & ComElec adopted the more costly, more complex PCOS/OMR automation system for 2010 elections. The new battle may now be to minimize OMR-based fraud and to maximize fair, transparent & honest elections in 2010.

    If Filipinos & foreign interests do not perceive the 2010 elections to be fair, transparent & honest, then this may “drag the economy and business down” – resulting in Neo-Malthusianism & Neo-Luddism by default (due to a de facto “vote of no confidence” in our government and our economy).

    Corrupting the leaders of the Philippines & other nations (to maintain control) may be an intentional strategy of our former colonial occupiers. See “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” (Perkins). We have abundant oil, gas, minerals & natural resources; and we work hard. Yet our often-corrupt leaders do not adequately invest in necessary physical infrastructure for our primarily agricultural economy – much less to develop our abundant natural resources. Therefore, our most lucrative exports are OFWs.

    The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) may be doing the best possible job that they can do under difficult circumstances. However, how can CenPEG & others succeed when few recognize – much less have solutions for – the intentional, neo-Malthusian, neo-Luddite, Back-to-the-Stone-Age strategies of those who seek continued control of our nation and our people?

  • Mabangis said:

    C’mon people of the Philippines. We need to give automation a chance.

    At least it is not yet proven to be “cheatable”. I say not yet coz we’ll see.

    With thousands of geeks and hackers here, this is surely exciting.

  • Mike F., Germany said:

    Dear Editors,
    the German Federal Court denied using of computerized counting of votes. The reason was simple: The counting was not controlable anymore and there were enough proofs for possibilities of manipulationg such systems.
    I think Mrs. GMA tries to follow the footsteps of Mr. Bush Jr. at his last elections. I hope the Philippinos will have the opportunity of non computerized counting of their votes.
    Good Luck

  • Bruce in Iloilo said:

    Optical scan technology is proven 40-year-old technology. For decades, optical scan machines have been used to count ballots worldwide. The problem here is HOW this technology is going to be used.

    First, every polling place should have its own machine and the VOTERS should feed their ballots into the machine. Ballots should not be touched by election officials unless there is a problem.

    Second, as soon as the polls close, the receipt showing the results should be printed, several copies in fact, and posted outside the polling place so that anyone who cares can look at it. This is how it is done in Massachusetts, for decades.

    Third, the results are called into the central headquarters to be followed up later by the official, signed documents. But since the results are posted at the polling place on election night, everyone knows what the numbers will be. It is the phoned-in results that are reported on CNN and elsewhere on Election Night.

    Optical scan machines are the preferred method of voting in the US, where each locality chooses its own method. It’s good technology. Proven technology. Over decades. The problem is that COMELEC has made it too complicated, too centralized, too constricted.

  • Bruce in Iloilo said:

    Oh, and FINALLY the Philippines will move into the 20th century and have a printed ballot. This must be the last country in the world that required voters to write in candidates’ names. No wonder the same names kept winning over and over again — the voters can remember Magsaysay or Defensor or Macapagal better than someone with a different last name.

    Now, can we get the Philippine electoral system to move into the 21st century? Electoral reform is always, in all countries, slow frustrating gradual work. This is a good first step, flawed as it is. Too bad we can’t just break up COMELEC. It is easier to control and corrupt one organization than multiple ones.

  • enchanted said:

    Yeah I agree with Mabangis – Let’s give automation of our electoral system a chance…if we don’t – – how can we move forward?

  • enchanted Manila, Phils said:

    Yeah, I agree with Mabangis, Let’s give the automation of our electoral system a chance here in our country… If we don’t give a chance – how can we move forward?

    let’s wait and see.

  • Agitator said:

    i’ve been doing some research and i cannot find how much a manual election would cost, vs an automated elections…

    i want to know, just so i could fully weigh the pros and cons…

    We, filipinos have the knack of living way beyond our means just so we could follow the trend…haste makes waste…

    how many percentage of the filipino people are educated? computer illiterate? do we have the resources not to mention the patience to herd the illiterate filipinos in the step by step process of an automated election?

    there are no guarantees..nothing is impenetrable when it comes to security, if there is a will there is a way to rig just about anything. my chief concern is, how prepared are we? security wise, education wise, budget wise?

    too much eagerness to follow the lead of progressive countries is not a wise decision, we are way behind, we can’t just skip lanes or stages…why can’t we for once try to think things through as a whole package and imagine the whole scenario before enforcing our personal convictions?

  • tubong_probinsya said:

    Assuming all security have been covered, fair election was held, does this mean that we are better off as a nation?

    What if buying votes is the only way now to rig election, will the machine differentiate and then block voters who sold their votes. BIG NO.

    Does this machine pick the right leader to hold office? HEEEELLLLL NOOOO.

    The people who sold us the machine are laughing all the way to the bank. Get them! Ignore the contract, better yet tear it and trash it.

    This machine does not guarantee RESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE.

    This machine shows how IRRESPONSIBLE the people in government are when it comes to spending peoples money.

    Considering economic pressure in the P.I. and mounting debts, the money could have been spent on something more beneficial in Philippine society.

    Because of our rush to consume technology and civilized cultures of the west, we are always kept on DEBT balance. We spend more on imports while our exports are not making sales on international markets. How are we going to pay this mounting deficit. (Damn the IMF. They won’t let us print money)

    “CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY” is not the same as being “HITECH”. Hitech is about knowledge base not necessarily having possession of advance machines. Calling this piece of crap machine as a leap of advancement in the history of our country, is basically the same as not knowing what to do with your d!ck when it get as tall as the Rizal monument. (Rizal would have know exactly what to do with it…stick it to the foreigner)

    Military needs to ACT and quick before they talk us to DEAF. We are losing our only means to a brighter future, LAND.

    For those who argue base on free market system, it’s the same system that have gotten us in this global mess. Point is that, free market is still to this day an experiment with lots of kinks. Though it works on paper, it does not explain the big gap between the third world and the capitalist first world. Just take Taiwan for example, as small as it is, Taiwanese are better off than Pilipinos. (GDP: Taiwan has $401B while Philippines has only $168B in 2008 est.) Something is fundamentally wrong here.

    Those who doubt in PROTECTIONISM of land, TIME will come (and it always has as the history tell us) when we gonna need our own resources. We certainly don’t want to buy it when we could have gotten it for free in the first place.

    Just remember one thing, TIME IS INFINITE. Yet already we feel as though the end is nearing which explains our tendency to go for broke. In contrary, the end is so far into the future. We have to be patient. We have to be diligent. Individually, we have to be men of responsibility to nation. (Open to your own interpretation)

    We are losing sight of our ancestral vision…what future did they intended for us?

  • tubong_probinsya said:

    Foreigners fooled our farmers with high yielding seeds by down playing the must needed and expensive fertilizers, now Pilipino farmers are always chasing profit. Meanwhile, our government increases import of rice from Vietnam. This is IRRESPONSIBLE use of power by serving foreign interests.

    In similar fashion, foreigners are once again reaching into Pilipinos pockets with these automated voting machines.

    Four years from now, this piece of crap machines will be obsolete because of how technology advances. It will be vulnerable to security breaches which means two options, one is to up grade the machines and security features. Two, a complete overhaul. Either way its going to cost the tax payer money.

    There is no justification for this machines. Pilipinos will still choose from the few elites and end up worst than before.

    Going high tech with automated voting is only costly in the short term and long term. It only generate money for the foreigner. And this is the type of IRRESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE that needs to be completely eliminated.

    If government officials continue in this lust for authority, our children’s future we have buried today.

    Power is clearly out of balance to favor interest groups in congress.

    MILITARY needs to exercise check of power in order to restore balance. Return common sense and common interest.