A CRITIQUE PAPER ON “PCOS AUTOMATED ELECTION AND THE THREAT TO THE SANCTITY OF THE BALLOT”

Posted: November 13, 2015 in lawschool
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With the 2016 election speeding its way even faster than the launching of former One Direction Zayn Malik’s new album, two questions pop inside every Filipino’s mind…“Are we participating in a politics of hope or will we suffer from the consequences of political cynicism?”

During the elections, we often see and hear news reports that as early as 6 am, Filipinos who can legally vote are already lining up at the precincts to cast and have their votes counted. We see grandmothers, grandfathers, people with disabilities, pregnant women, working people, old faces as well as first time voters waiting patiently for their turn to perform their sacred right and duty to vote. We see one kind of strong emotion emanating from them. In every election, the Philippine nation is hoping for a better change.

However, given the Smartmatic’s precinct count optical scan (PCOS) anomalies and worsening operations during the 2010 and 2013 Philippine elections, it’s quite devastating to know that the COMELEC will push through with automated elections which is tainted with legal issues. Malacañang Palace also ruled out the possibility of “no 2016 elections” even if there are legalities surrounding the use of PCOS machines.

I strongly agree with the speaker that the PCOS system has obvious flaws; and that there should be real transparency. Again, for the third time, the PCOS automated election is a threat to the sanctity of the ballot because we are going to be forced to participate in voting and exercising our right and duty but we have no utter way of knowing if our votes are actually counted. We have no way of verifying if its results are real because before every election, the COMELEC already disabled some security features of the machines. Is there still integrity and truthfulness to the voting results then?

How many times did we see TV reports that papers are not properly feeding the system of the PCOS, PCOS machines are overheating and PCOS machines are malfunctioning? Smartmatic super expensive machines are incapable of showing simple top standards. To top it all, Smartmatic neither owns the hardware or the software inside the PCOS machine! And we have no idea how exactly does the source code works! We will spend 14.5 billion pesos just to fix these machines for 2016 elections! Obviously, taxpayers are wasting money on these machines. It seems to many that Filipinos don’t really decide who wins but the “counting” machine does.

Does this mean that we are against using technology to count our ballots?

The opinion of the Philippine nation is divided with the idea of automated elections. Some praised it because finally, we are adopting technology as a means to effectively and honestly count our votes in a faster and easier manner. Some claimed that automated elections cannot be reliable in the sense that it can be manipulated or if it malfunctioned, it may not count the right number of votes.

If we listen carefully to the rants of those who are against automated elections, if we pay attention to the responses of those experts in information technology, their questions and replies are not about who won, who’s leading or who will lead in the election polls but they are more concerned about the weakness of the automated election itself. The automated election on which we, Filipinos, put so much hope upon.

However, we might be unfair because we are looking on the weaknesses of the PCOS. To be just, the speaker also discussed some background of the Smartmatic. Smartmatic is a multi-national company that provides electronic voting technology and is a services provider. It boasts itself as they are not an elections company but they are the elections company. It has seven world records which included the first to feature paper receipts and the world’s largest automated elections. On the contrary, Smartmatic is also facing law suits in many countries because of its dubious, overpriced, unreliable, busted and malfunctioning machines and flawed system. Aside from the 2010 and 2013 Philippine elections, there are several election controversies tagging Smartmatic and PCOS as the culprit.

Suffrage is a right and duty which is recognized and must be protected by the fundamental law and the State. Automated counting of votes as well as manual counting of votes cannot escape possible electoral fraud. In any case, especially the former, the use of whichever method will only suffice the requirements of the law if the important steps of the process of voting including the determination of the result can be scrutinized by a voter in a transparent and or easy manner even if the voter has no special knowledge about such method.

Filipinos may have many differences but in election times, we all want the same thing – honesty and transparency. The speaker is adamant when he converses about transparency. We ought to be adamant too. After all, it is the future of our country and us who are at stake.

Personally, there is nothing wrong with the use of technology. But I agree with the proposition made by Commissioner Lagman early this year about Precinct Automated Tallying System (PATAS). The process may be tedious to some because the counting of ballots will be manually done but synchronized with laptop counting or automated counting. Also, the public can witness the live canvassing of votes and it is Filipino-made which is better than PCOS.

Nevertheless, time is running out and the election is just months away. By this time, we should have already decided on the manner how we will protect the sanctity of our votes. If not, then my answer to the questions I formerly raised would be – maybe we are indeed participating in a politics of hope but in the end, we will suffer the consequences of political cynicism because we put wrong hope in an unclear automated system.

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