MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Election Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., on Sunday asked detractors to stop casting doubt on the integrity of the 2013 elections in the absence of a review of the source code by political parties and IT experts. He noted that the country held successful presidential and national elections in 2010 even without the physical appreciation of the source code of Precinct Counting Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.
The May 2013 midterm elections will use the same PCOS machines, and Comelec is paying the same supplier, the Venezuela-based Smartmatic. This, amid fears of glitches and avenues for fraud because a source code review will again, as in 2010, not be possible.
Brillantes said in an interview on DZBB there is no truth to the assumptions of Comelec critics that the integrity of the elections may be jeopardized without the review of the PCOS source code by political parties or information technology experts.
“That’s true, whether we get the source code or not, we can still use the PCOS machines. Hindi po totoo na kapag wala ang source, hindi na tatakbo ang eleksiyon. Kasi kung wala ang source code, nandoon naman ang binary codes na magpapatakbo sa makina [It’s not true that without the source code, there won’t be elections. In the absence of the source code, there is still the binary codes that will run the machine],” Brillantes said.
He argued that in the 2010 national elections, all winning candidates from the president, vice president, senator down to city or municipal councilors were declared without any one, even the political parties, having reviewed or seen the source code.
“They were asking us where is the source code, so I asked back, isn’t it that in 2010, in the first automated election, no one saw the source code? And yet we had no problem proclaiming the president, vice president and senators,” Brillantes said.
He said the binary machine-readable code embedded inside the Compact Flash (CF) card ran the PCOS machines then in the 2010 national elections, not the source code per se, which is a human-readable code in alphanumeric language.
“Lahat po ng instruction na gagawin ng PCOS nandoon sa source code, pero hindi po iyon ang inilalagay sa makina, ang inilalagay sa makina ay binary na binabasa ng makina, hindi naman nagbabasa ang makina ng English eh, nagbabasa ito ng codal na linguahe, ng code, iyon hindi mababasa ng tao iyon, ang nababasa ng tao ang source code. Nababasa ng makina ang binary na kayang-kayang i-encode ng makina, ito ang nagbibigay ng instructions. [All the instructions for PCOS are in the source code, but it’s not the source code, but the binary code, that is introduced into the machine. The machine cannot read English, it reads codal language, giving the instructions. People can read the source code, but the machine reads the binary codes],” he said.
“They did not give us then the source code, the human-readable codes, because Dominion, the owner, didn’t want Smartmatic to give it to us. But we have the binary machine-readable code which runs the machine,” he explained.
All the instructions needed by the PCOS machine to conduct the automated elections have been incorporated inside the CF cards.
“Ang talagang ginagamit sa PCOS machine ay CF card, kung saan nandoon po iyong binary codes, iyon ang nagpapatakbo ng eleksiyon [The machine uses the binary codes stored in the CF card, which run the elections],” he said.
“Today, we don’t have the source code, we cannot read it. But the technical binary code is there already, it is with us and ready for use in the May polls,” he added, speaking in Filipino.
Source code independent certifier
Brillantes explained that the independent certifier, SLI Global Solutions Inc., has certified the integrity of the source code for PCOS machines owned by Dominion Electoral Systems Inc., based in Delaware.
“The source code was certified by an independent certifier, the SLI Global Solutions Inc., tinignan nila kung magkapareho ang source code sa binary machine readable code. Tinignan nya kung may depekto o may sira, kung puwedeng dayain, kung puwedeng masira, tsi-check po lahat yan [they checked if the source code is the same as the one read by the machine in binary. Seeing to it that the codes don't have any defect, damage, or could be corrupted].
However, Brillantes said that the Comelec cannot get the actual copy of the source code because of the legal action by Dominion against Smartmatic.
“Ngayon may [Now, there's a] source code, pero nandoon sa [but it's with the] Denver certifier. Tinignan natin doon, okey na ito, Pero ayaw ipadala ng Dominion kasi nag-aaway sila ng Smarmatic. Sa amin okey lang, di huwag ninyong ipadala, [We looked at it there, it was OK, but Dominion won't send the codes to us because of their current rift with Smartmatic]” he said.
He added that the binary-readable code concealed in CF cards was used by the Technical Evaluation Committee to determine the soundness of the country’s automated election system. “
“The Technical Evaluation Committee issued a report, and they said the machine will function properly and accurately,” Brillantes said.
The TEC, created through Republic Act 9369, is composed of representatives from the Comelec, Department of Science and Technology, and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology. It is mandated by law to determine the soundness of the country’s automated election system (AES).