The Philippine Star - Abolish Comelec-Smartmatic

12 August 2018

By Carmen N. Pedrosa | The Philippine Star

The most important decision we, the Filipino people have to take is whether or not we will have elections in 2019 using the Smartmatic-PCOS machine again. For the moment there are no discussions on the heart of the problem – it is unconstitutional. We are diverted by particular incidents of cheating. We need to look at it the way other countries have. Comelec has practically turned over our elections to a foreign group in the business of buying and selling automated systems. “By entering into a contract with Smartmatic, the Comelec, in effect delegated the exclusive powers granted to it by the 1987 Constitution to a private, foreign company based in the Netherlands. The more appropriate word would be “abdicated.” The Comelec, through its contract with Smartmatic, in effect, outsourced the supervision of the Philippine electoral system, including the counting, consolidation and canvassing of votes, among other things. At best, the Comelec performed a subsidiary role to Smartmatic in the elections. It, in effect, transformed itself into the secretariat of Smartmatic, which, to all intents and purposes, usurped the poll body’s functions and powers. We should be grateful to Glenn Chong for resurrecting the issue of how Smartmatic-PCOS machines have taken over elections in our country. To his supporters this column would advise them to refrain from recommending him to be the next Comelec chairman. That will not be a solution. The problem is the Comelec itself. It must be abolished.

Malacañang said postponing the 2019 elections should be done only if a new Constitution would be drafted and ratified by the people before the polls. Otherwise, it said, there is no reason to stop the scheduled balloting.

President Rodrigo Duterte “reiterated he is against no-el,” or “no-election,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. That is an ingenious tactic but it does not solve the graver problem of what to do with Comelec who put us into this mess. The heart of the problem is that to continue holding elections using machines (Smatmatic in particular) is unconstitutional. Are we sleepwalling into another unconstitutional election? It seems we are. The government, predatory politicians and unwary citizens are being sucked into a vortex to be ready for elections, however it will be conducted. In other words, we are going into it with closed eyes and hope that it will work. It seems to me that the Comelec will brazen it out, confident that it can use the flawed Smartmatic voting system once again this year.

As far as Comelec is concerned the Filipino electorate is not organized to challenge the perfidy of a trumped up automated election system, they will get away with it. Indeed in any elections we hold from hereon. Institutions like Congress, the Supreme Court, have been preempted so questions or electoral complaints will remain as complaints – but not acted on.

Indeed, these very institutions will be used to give the stamp of approval to the elected candidates. Its purpose of being the guardians against fraud or failed elections will have been turned upside down. Instead of ensuring honest and transparent elections it will be used to give the elections and its elected candidates their stamp of approval and that is all there is to it. Citizens can kick and scream “fraud” to no avail once the election is done, however it is done. That was how Noynoy Aquino became president.

Remember? Smartmatic machines made him president. Congress acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal rushed the tabulation despite legitimate objections and ambassadors with close ties to the US trooped to congratulate the president elect in his house even before the tabulation was finished in 2010. The electoral body is betting on a calculated risk that if it worked in 2010, it will work in 2013 and 2016. And again in 2019. Unless we change our pattern of attack we cannot win. In the Smartmatic suit against Dominion Voting Systems, it was found out that Dominion was the true owner of the Smartmatic technology/software. Comelec admitted it did not know that.

I have not followed the case in Delaware when Dominion the true owner sued Smartmatic. The last I heard was because of the suit in Delaware, Smartmatic did not have the source code of Dominion’’s voting system. In the suit filed in the Delaware Chancery Court in the US, Smartmatic “admits programming errors in the voting system.” Dominion Voting System accused Smartmatic of “not observing proper pre-election technical preparations for the system in the last 2010 first national automated elections which resulted in many technical glitches nationwide.” Dominion has terminated its license to Smartmatic to use its software for 2013. The question is what software is it going to use having already received payments from Comelec to do the job? No wonder people are calling it ‘hocus PCOS.” Throughout the arduous and difficult campaign to bring the issue of automated election fraud to the public, there have been a few brave souls who have never let go even if it seemed hopeless. Rene Azurin in his Business World column is one of them. I am quoting from his column about the observations of Barbara Simon of the US Advisory Board of the Federal Elections Commission. She was also past president of the Association for Computing Machinery in the US. Here is what she says: “Having the software source code doesn’t guarantee that you will detect critical software bugs or malicious code. Anyone with access to the election software of a major voting machine vendor can change the outcome of a national election.” Election fraud can now be committed on a national, not just a local, basis… (And) if you are going to subvert software, you are not going to do something that will be found by a checklist. It’s easy to insert a Trojan Horse into the software because the testing won’t find it.” (The cheating does not take place in the counting after the votes have been cast, but in the programming of the machines. In other words the machines elect.)

Azurin says that “as far as the proprietary system of the favored Venezuelan firm Smartmatic International Inc. is concerned, it is not altogether clear what arrangements with respect to the software code have been agreed with Comelec. “That knowledge is why the trend in the US – in the light of several close contested races, notably the 2000 presidential elections – has veered away from fully automated systems and toward more manual, paper-based systems where counting and tallying can be easily verified by independent observers.” Is anyone in Comelec listening? The Supreme Court should be playing a pivotal and important part on how to resolve the controversies surrounding the Smartmatic PCOs now before it is too late.