WITH less than a hundred days before the country's first automated national elections, members of Congress and the poll body failed to resolve the issue on the proper review of the “source code.”

The source code, a human-readable version of the computer programs running on the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) and canvassing computers, reveals the process or steps on how the computer will count the votes and accumulate them into canvasses.

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It is the software program that would be installed in the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the coming May elections.

Senator Francis Escudero criticized the poll body during the joint oversight congressional committee hearing Friday, saying it should allow a public review of the source codes to ensure the software’s authenticity.

“I do not understand their problem, why they do not want others to view it,” Escudero said. “It’s not as if the source code is a diamond ring. It can be changed. They should allow it to be viewed publicly so that if it is hacked we could immediately know and trace them.”

But the Comelec had said it will allow source code review of the programs under closed and secured conditions and released stringent guidelines for programmers of interested political parties and groups that want to do the review.

Earlier, some quarters like the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) warned the Comelec against doing so as this can make the program vulnerable to “hacking.”

CenPEG’s Bobby Tuazon, director for Policy studies, said that Comelec’s source code review is not for real and the ground rules and restrictions it has set make the activity a sham.

According to CenPEG, Comelec may not have the license to allow source code review by third parties. This is due to copyright provision between its owner Dominion Voting Systems of Canada and software licensee Smartmatic-EMS.

The license does not give the Comelec any right to allow review of the Dominion source code by third parties; it only gives Comelec the right to use the EMS and PCOS programs for Philippine elections.

An item in the licensing agreement also implicitly prohibits Smartmatic and probably the Comelec also from amending, changing or developing enhancements, which can only be done during a source code review.

But Comelec chairman Jose Melo said they have reservations on the proposal because of the high risks involved.

“They want to review it; they want to get it from us. If it’s not in our control anyone might tamper with it,” Melo said.

He added that the source codes would be deposited at a safe vault of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for safekeeping but they are still waiting a resolution from the BSP monetary board to be released next week. (AH/Sunnex)