The Manila Times: Group asks Comelec to scrap NDA

8 September 2021

By Zsastee Villanueva | The Manila Times

An information and communications technology (ICT) group asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to remove the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as a requirement for the local source code review (LSCR) to boost Filipinos' confidence in the automated election system (AES).

The Philippine Computer Society Foundation (PCSF) said the Comelec's decision to include an NDA is inconsistent with its objective "to build public trust, promote transparency and confidence in the AES."

The LSCR ensures that the source code used by the AES meets the standards and criteria required by law.

PCSF Chairman Leo Querubin said, "Having an NDA is like having a restaurateur asking food critics to conduct a review of the menu but would not allow the food critics to publish their reviews."

Last month, the Comelec urged stakeholders to submit their applications until September 10.

The LSCR provides interested parties an opportunity to inspect and examine the source code of the AES. Source codes are human readable instructions that define what a computer will do.

The LSCR will cover the source codes for the election management system, vote-counting machines, consolidated canvassing system and all other systems developed by Smartmatic-TIM, the Comelec's software provider.

Political parties or groups accredited by the Comelec as well as IT groups recommended by the poll body or the Department of Information and Communications Technology can join the review.

The PCSF also criticized the poll body's policy of preferential priority based on available space.

The Comelec has said that if space is limited and all interested parties, groups and associations cannot be accommodated in the venue of the source code review, preference shall be given to major political parties and duly-accredited citizen's arms of the commission.

Querubin said the poll body should remove hindrances to groups or organizations if it aims to be transparent in the elections next year.