SOURCE codes to be used for the electronic transmission of data in the coming May elections will be released for review by different parties on Friday.
But political parties who intend to review it must pass their methodology of review, Commission on Election (Comelec) Commissioner Armando Velasco told the House of Representatives Oversight committee.
Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño interrogated the poll body on whether source codes can still be changed if Information Technology (IT) experts of the different parties find some sort of "secret code" or backdoor.
Smartmatic Asia President Cesar Flores said the purpose of letting the source code be reviewed is for understanding and not to do another audit because the Comelec-approved Systest Lab already did the first auditing.
“Republic Act 9369, which was approved by the legislation, already gave the system for how it will work so in a way, all the parties were already involved in the filing. There was already an input from different political parties. The Comelec works in reference to that law,” he said.
For his part, Comelec legal department head Ferdinand Rafanan said: “The review to be done is for the purpose of seeing to it that indeed, certification by technical committee and Systest Lab is accurate, not to replace it.”
“What is the point if we are not allowed to change it anymore?" asked Casiño.
Comelec meanwhile has not set any deadline for the submission of reviews by political parties.
The source code will also be deposited to the Central Bank of the Philippines on Friday, according to Rafanan. Once deposited, the source codes will be hidden from view and protected by the bank.
The Comelec and Smartmatic did not give a statement on whether the source code can still be changed in case of an anomaly report.
Early voting in Maguindanao
In other developments, the Comelec en banc is set to discuss whether it will operate early voting in Maguindanao and other areas with history of violence and electoral fraud.
“I wanted to say that the Maguindanao area might be more easily under control by the Comelec if we do the voting earlier than scheduled,” Rafanan said.
This came after Flores disclosed that nine of the 37 critical areas identified are in Maguindanao.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez also raised the concern whether Comelec will still push through with the early voting despite lack of legislation. The Senate and House of Representatives adjourned Wednesday, the last day of session, due to lack of quorum.
The Senate was supposed to pass on second reading the Early Media Voting Bill but author Makati Representative Teddy Boy Locsin said some senators wanted to amend it into a national early voting system.
Due to lack of law that will back early voting, the Comelec en banc will have to decide on the matter.
“We are still talking about it,” Commissioner Velasco said.
Maguindanao province became controversial due to the massacre in Ampatuan town that left 57 people dead. It is also the target of the “Hello Garci” phone conversation.
Jammers can't alter data
Flores of Smartmatic likewise assured House members that jammers can only delay the transmission of results but “there is no way it can alter data from the machines.”
“Data can not be disrupted or substituted,” he said.
Commissioner Velasco added that the intention of those who might use jammers is to delay the transmission.
Every data transmitted by the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines has an encryption that allows it to be received by servers set up by the Comelec, according to Flores.
Aside from this, every machine also has a digital signature that assigns which particular precinct it would work.
In case the GPRS networks does not work, 5000 broadband global area network (BGAN) satellites by Immarsat deployed in key places all over the country will be used as contingency.
If that contingency plan still fails to work, the election returns will be transmitted manually to the municipal hall.
Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez expressed concern that cheating could occur during the manual transmission, especially if the lead between two presidential candidates is only one percent, like the scenario during the 1992 elections.
One percent constitutes 580,000 of the 50.8 million registered voters.
Flores echoed Comelec and Smartmatic's earlier statement that 30 percent of the country was surveyed to not have GPRS signals. (Angela Casauay/Sunnex)