Friday, October 10, 2014

Subverting Democracy through PCOS machines?

The voting process has been thoroughly corrupted, and there has been no effort to reform it. This is why Aquino has the courage to believe he could extend his incompetent and corrupt rule for another six years, without any effort. Being in control of Congress, the Comelec and the conscript press, he could get Congress to railroad a constitutional amendment that would lift his term limit, and he could get the Comelec and the PCOS machines to declare that the people have ratified the amendment, even if they did not, and give him a “landslide” win in the bogus elections, even if he did not get any votes. And the conscript media will be there, waiting eagerly to celebrate his great achievement. - Kit Tatad

Democracy subverted

Since 2009 when it began preparing for the country’s first nationwide automated polls, our Commission on Elections (Comelec) has -- despite vigorous shouts of protest from computer science professionals, academics, and citizens’ groups -- systematically acted to eliminate and disregard the standard computer industry security protocols and other important safeguards that could allow the validation of results and ensure the accuracy and integrity of the outcomes.



Comelec’s actions and decisions make it appear as if its main goal all along was to deliberately create a situation where manipulating election outcomes would be as easy as the proverbial walk in the park. Control of the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scanner) voting and counting machines, control of the electronic transmissions, and control of the memory devices were ensconced firmly in the hands of Comelec’s favored system provider (Smartmatic), with no accountability and auditability mechanisms in place or in operationDagdag-bawas (literally, add-subtract), the street term for election cheating, is far more efficient done electronically with a computer than the old manual dagdag-bawas where election returns had to be manually altered. Elections can now be stolen in the click of a keystroke.

As implemented by Comelec, our automated election system is almost entirely opaque and there is no way for the candidates, the political parties, the media, or us (the voting public) to verify and validate election results. What this means is that there is no transparency. And transparency is an absolute requirement if an election is to be credible and democratic.

In both the 2010 and the 2013 polls, we voters had no way of telling if our votes were actually counted and if the votes were being accurately tallied. In effect, the Filipino public was required to just take whatever Comelec’s PCOS machines printed out as election results as gospel truth. On faith. Significantly, that faith hasn’t been validated in the instances when it was possible to actually compare the electronic results with a manual recount. Those instances are well documented.


The problems and complexities inherent in an automated election system and the reason they do not provide the transparency we (the public) must demand have been detailed and discussed in two books: (1) Hacking Our Democracy: The Conspiracy To Electronically Control Philippine Elections (2013), by me, published by BusinessWorld; and (2) Was Your Vote Counted? Unveiling the Myths About Philippine Automated Elections (2013), a collection of articles by various academics, computer science experts, IT industry practitioners, and knowledgeable observers, edited by Prof. Bobby Tuazon, published by the Diliman-based policy group CenPEG. Concerned citizens should check these books out and get informed about how we citizens have already been stripped of our most basic democratic right. The books are available at Solidaridad Book Store on Padre Faura and at several National Book Stores.

The point to stress here is that we have to abandon any illusions that our elections are transparent, honest, and reflective of the people’s will. As it stands, our entire election machinery has already been hijacked and fatally compromised. What this means, in practical terms, is that those who think that elections are a viable route to changing our corrupt political leadership are sadly mistaken. Notwithstanding the massive and institutionalized plunder of the people’s money by greedy and colluding politicos, we (the Filipino people) can no longer even vote them out of office.
As CenPEG has noted: “There should be no illusion... that modern technology will guarantee a free election. Who controls the machine controls the votes.” - Read full story on BusinessWorld Online

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