DESPITE repeated assurances, a think-tank group said Monday that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will not be able to implement full automation of the 2010 polls due to delays in the timetable.

Conveners of election watchdog AesWatch 2010 answer queries from media regarding the group's advocacy on clean and honest poll automation. (Virgil Lopez)

Ateneo professor Bobby Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) said that based on Comelec's latest calendar as of

October 10, 2009, 10 out of 27 activities due for completion on January 15 this year have not been completed.

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Foremost among the delayed activities is the delivery of machines and software components by Smartmatic-TIM, which should have been finished by December 31 last year.

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“The delay of the delivery of the hardware and software components compromises our resolve to work things out before election day,” Tuazon said during the launching of election watchdog AesWatch at the Club Filipino in San Juan City Monday.

As of January 10, there are 15,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines stocked in a warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna. The winning bidder Smartmatic-TIM said 10,000 more units were due to arrive in two batches last week.

The P7.19-billion poll automation contract, inked by Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM last July, set the delivery of 10,000 PCOS machines in November; 30,000 in December; 30,000 in January; and 10,200 in February.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo earlier said they will slap a fine on Smartmatic-TIM if it fails to deliver the 82,200 poll machines within the timetable.

There are 75,471 clustered precincts. Each clustered precinct will have one PCOS machine – each of which can supposedly accommodate up to 1,000 voters.

Other notable delays include the field testing of the PCOS machines that should have been done on November 28 last year. The revised timeline had it in January 19.

The schedule for mock elections was likewise moved from December 13 last year to January 30.

Training of Comelec personnel will be conducted starting January 14 instead of December 15.

Printing of ballots, meanwhile, has been moved from January 7 to January 25. Other activities have also been delayed.

And for this, AesWatch, a group that vows to engage Comelec on issues related to the readiness and trustworthiness of the automated election system scored the poll body for its inability to follow its own schedule.

“By this time it appears that the Comelec is being confronted by insurmountable challenges especially with regard to the AES implementation. If the pattern of the delays continues, the trustworthiness of the election system is put to a greater risk and vulnerability...will also undermine the whole electoral process thus affecting its credibility,” it said.

Comelec officials vowed to work round-the-clock to complete all preparations for the automated elections on April, a month before the polls.

Source code issue

In a related development, Tuazon said the Supreme Court (SC) has not yet acted on their petition for mandamus asking the High Court to compel Comelec to reveal the source codes that will be used in the PCOS machines.

“So far the Supreme Court has not acted on our petition. Mukhang busy ata sila e,” said Tuazon, adding that no oral arguments have been set since the time of the filing.

Sun.Star tried to contact SC Deputy Court Administrator lawyer Jose Midas Marquez for comment but to no avail.

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Last October 3, lawyers Francisco Joaquin and Aquilino Pimentel III filed in behalf of CenPEG the petition signed by 80 personalities from the business, information technology, academe, and religious sectors with a copy delivered to Comelec.

In its petition, CenPEG cited Section 12 also of RA 9369 (Poll Automation Law) which states: “Once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups, which may conduct their own review thereof.”

Citing the same law, Tuazon said the source code is the human-readable version of the computer programs that will be running on the PCOS machines and boar of canvasser computers on election day. It will reveal whether the voting and canvassing are done properly by the machines.

The Comelec said in a press briefing last October 13 that the source code will be made available to others only after it has been certified by the company the poll body tasked to do the mandated certification.

SysTest Labs of Colorado, USA got the P70-million source code review contract expected to be completed not later than February 10 or three months before general elections on May 10.

After which, the Comelec said it can be open to review by other groups including different political parties who can read the report of SysTest Labs. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)