CNN Philippines : Comelec opens 2022 election source code review

4 October 2021

By Tristan Nodalo | CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has formally opened the local source code review of the automated election system (AES) that will be used in the May 2022 polls.

The review period, which will take at least six months, aims to ensure transparency in the election system and detect possible threats that may affect the outcome and the integrity of the polls.

Opening the source code review is mandated by Republic Act 8436 or the Automated Elections Law.

"The Commission shall, on the date and time it shall set and with proper notices, allow the political parties and candidates or their representatives, citizens' arm or their representatives to examine and test the machines to ascertain that the system is operating properly and accurately. Test ballots and test forms shall be provided by the Commission," the law states.

The source code refers to the set of instructions, statements or human readable language that tells a computer what to do.

"Our objective is to ensure that the AES will function as it should or as expected. We need to make sure that the code is clean and there is no embedded malicious code, and we would identify issues or errors that could potentially impact the outcome of the elections," Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo said during the kickoff ceremony.

At least 15 groups so far have expressed their intention to be part of the source code review.

Most of them are from political parties, election watchdogs, citizens’ arm groups and recognized independent IT experts.

The source code review will begin on Oct. 5 at the Diamond Hotel in Manila. Security measures are in place and strict health protocols will be carried out.

Threats of hacking, addressing the 2016 seven-hour glitch

For independent reviewers, the review is a welcome move that would make the election process more transparent.

Lawyer Ivan Uy of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee said he has been following the source code review since the start of automated elections.

So far, technical concerns have been addressed every post-election period.

Uy said that amid technological advances, hacking the 2022 polls is a remote possibility.

"The system itself has a lot of security features that will discourage if not make it virtually impossible for an outside hacker to have that kind of resources in order to hack into the system," Uy said.

Meantime, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they will go beyond what is required of them in the source code review. They will also move to address the problems encountered during the 2016 elections that resulted in a 7-hour glitch.

"Even the small details we will review them because of its impact on the credibility and transparency of our automated elections," Jimenez explained.