As the reliability of the PCOS source code remains in question, Professor Aya Ragragio, coordinator of poll watchdog Kontra Daya in Southern Mindanao, said, “(T)he task to monitor the polls remains daunting.”
By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – It seems voting would not be the only duty the citizens will do come elections on Monday; voters should also spot election fraud and irregularities such as the possible failure of PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines.
As the reliability of the PCOS source code remains in question, Professor Aya Ragragio, coordinator of poll watchdog Kontra Daya (KD) in Southern Mindanao, said “(T)he task to monitor the polls remains daunting.”
The source code, a human readable program which runs the PCOS machines, has not been reviewed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) according to the law’s mandate, that is, three months ahead of elections.
KD volunteer Eleazar Templado, who is also an information technology (IT) expert, said a review of the source code by independent parties would have helped end doubts on whether election results would be tamper-free.
The Comelec initially insisted to skip the review, but after the prodding of poll watchdogs, they scampered to pressure the PCOS machines supplier Smartmatic International to produce the source code from its software supplier Dominion Voting Systems.
Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes announced Thursday they have already secured the source code but its review is already impossible now. He said they will review the source code after elections, a thing that worries poll watch groups.
Kim Gargar, another IT expert of KD, said that without reviewing the source code and ensuring safeguards, there are no guarantees that the upcoming elections will be spared from the glaring failures of the automated election system last 2010.
Gargar cited that the printing function of the PCOS machine of the votes cast by a voter is still disabled, just as in last elections. “With this function disabled, there will be no way for voters to validate whether their votes are really the ones taken into account by the machine,” he said.
That is why, in the face of such failures, Ragragio said it now falls in the hands of voters to monitor. “The power is still in the voters to report if they think that there is cheating going on in their areas,” she said.
“We should be able to document each and every detail of any irregularity spotted because we need hard evidence, if we decide to file a case later on either against the Comelec or Smartmatic,” Ragrario stressed.
Anti-fraud tips for voters
Kontra Daya runs a list of tips to detect irregularities on elections day. One is to be watchful of the presence of soldiers, police or any persons carrying firearms in polling precincts.
Ragragio said that in far flung areas, it is difficult to trust state security forces because as proven in the past elections, many of them are engaged in electioneering.
Reports of military personnel distributing black propaganda flyers against progressive party lists were documented by watchdog group Pagbabago in Pandaitan Elementary School in Paquibato District and in Zone 1 village in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur province last 2010.
Ragragio also noted only members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) are allowed to hold the ballots and election paraphernalia to be used in the election process. “No one else should touch them, aside from the BEI or put any mark on the forms,” she warned.
These election items are considered off limits to local officials, even Comelec personnel or technicians of the machine.
In case the machines reject ballots, Ragragio said the BEI should tell the voter the specific cause of the machine’s rejection.
Cases where the ballots are usually rejected involved faulty shading, shading more than what is required or over voting, and other marks detected in the ballot.
A voter has four chances of repeating the process if the ballot is rejected by the PCOS machine, before the machine is replaced.
Voters can also request to be allowed to make corrections in case there is a part of the oval portion that they have failed to shade. It is important that the voters inspect the ballot handed to them to make sure they are free of any markings; otherwise, they can refuse a ballot and request for another one.
Also, each ballot has to be checked first by the BEI for validity, which is done by scanning the ballot’s ultraviolet imprint, before being handed over to the voter.
In case the ballot runs out in one precinct, one can request the BEI to issue a certification and accompany the voter to go to the nearest precinct to cast her vote.
Voters should make sure they have signed the voter’s list and have their nails dropped with indelible ink to safeguard from fraud.
Voting starts at 7 AM and ends at 6 PM. However, one is still allowed to vote beyond 6 PM if she or he is already within 30 meters from the polling place.
Ragragio reminds voters of the advantages of being earnest and advised the latter to come early to the polling precincts to check their names on the voter’s list which are usually posted outside of the polling place.
Kontra Daya will deploy volunteers in polling areas. Also, voters can contact these hotlines for reporting irregularities: 09325247757; 0927476 6017 and 0919 521 7160. Voters can also access them through their website http://www.kontradaya.