By Ina Reformina | ABS-CBN News
MANILA (UPDATED) — A second round of internet voting test run for overseas Filipinos will take place over the weekend hosted by election solutions vendor Smartmatic-TIM, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced in a virtual presentation Wednesday.
The internet voting simulation is spearheaded by the Comelec's Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) as part of its exploratory activities for internet-based voting for overseas Filipinos, in the absence of an enabling law allowing this mode of casting votes.
Comelec launched the project last week with US-based tech firm Voatz as its pilot host.
Smartmatic's test run will begin Saturday, Sept. 18, up to Monday, Sept. 20, this time, with 671 participants.
The participants are all registered voters from 70 countries and foreign posts, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) personnel.
Smartmatic’s platform is called TIVI or short for Trust Innovation Verifiability Integrity, developed by the firm’s Centre of Excellence for Internet Voting (CEIV) in Estonia, with partner Cybernetica.
“TIVI is a secure platform that was designed for remote voters using unsupervised devices from any location,” said Smartmatic product manager for online voting Armando Torres.
Torres explained: “One of the key things of our solution… is that it is a web-based platform, and there are big differences in having a web-based platform from mobile applications because we do believe and we think, we trust, and we have been testing this in our experience that by implementing a solution with these characteristics, we improve the accessibility of voters… we will not require from voters to install a new application on their personal devices.”
For the test run, voter participants will receive two emails for voter authentication and voting instructions.
Smartmatic Asia-Pacific tech solutions manager Miguel Avila explained voter authentication and other features of the platform may be customized or reconfigured to suit requirements, such as including a biometrics feature for authentication.
OFOV director Sonia Bea Lozada further said: “The customization requirements, the requirements of the security features that we will be requiring of the providers or what will be included in the technical specifications should internet voting be adopted in future elections, this is an area that still has to be legislated so it’s not solely the determination for the Comelec.”
“This is also the reason why we are conducting these test runs so that we have data, moving forward, evidence-based policy recommendation that we can submit to the joint congressional oversight committee on overseas voting,” she added.
Smartmatic said its platform provides audit features in the event of a recount and other similar election protest activities.
Smartmatic has engaged the Comelec since 2010 when it provided machines and systems for the Philippines' first ever nationwide automated elections.
In the 2016 elections, a script change made by Smartmatic in the media transparency server was criticized by stakeholders.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) later found the intervention a violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act for "lack of required authorization."
Smartmatic explained the script change was merely "cosmetic" to correct "ñ" entries appearing as "?."
In the 2019 midterm polls, Smartmatic was also hounded by the controversial "7-hour glitch" that delayed the transmission of data from the polling precincts to media partners.
Addressing this issue on Tuesday, Comelec commissioner and election steering committee chairman Marlon Casquejo explained the other redundancy servers continued to receive election results and only the media server bogged down.
To prevent a similar incident in the 2022 elections, Casquejo said specific provisions pertaining to the media transparency server, including a provision for laptops that pass "stress" tests, are included in the terms of reference for the consolidation and canvassing system.
During the launch of the test runs, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guazon said internet overseas voting will save government huge amounts in operational, logistics, and supply costs.
Comelec is eyeing security, accessibility, and cost as criteria in selecting a platform in the future, when an enabling law shall have been passed by Congress.
The commission is authorized, based on the Overseas Voting Act of 2003 to explore internet-based technologies for overseas voting.
A third vendor, Indra Sistemas, is also set to conduct its own test run within the month. - with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News