An independent committee, which includes a representative from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), has failed to meet a deadline to certify before Congress that the automated election system “is operating properly, securely, and accurately.”
The deadline was supposed to be 3 months before the May 9 elections.
Failing to certify the voting system before Congress, however, “will not render the entire process null and void,” former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr said.
In the same way, for instance, Brillantes said the elections pushed through in 2010 even without the required source code review, a scrutiny of the “master blueprint” of voting machines. He said, “No source code review by interested groups was conducted prior to the May 2010 elections, and yet the said elections remain valid.”
Still, former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the certification of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) matters because it is “the seal of approval” on the voting system.
“The TEC certification is the seal of approval saying that, ‘Okay, we’ve tested the system, we’ve tested the hardware, we’ve tested the software. It’s go. We’re ready for the elections. You can use this for the elections,’” Larrazabal said.
Reacting to Brillantes’ statement, Larrazabal also said that “there was a source code review done in 2010 by an international certified agency as required by law.” He said the source code review was done by SysTest Labs Inc, “the same company that did the source code review for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 elections.”
Larrazabal pointed these out on Friday, April 29, after he wrote the poll body and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III about the TEC document.
Pimentel chairs the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated election system.
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez on Friday said the poll body needs to complete a crucial test before this certification is issued.
‘No explanation from Comelec’
Larrazabal explained that under the law, the TEC is supposed to certify that the automated elections system “is operating properly, securely, and accurately.”
The TEC is composed of representatives from the Comelec, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, and the Department of Science and Technology.
Larrazabal said the TEC is supposed to submit this certification to the JCOC on the automated election system.
He said that if the TEC fails to submit this document to the JCOC, the Comelec is supposed to explain to the JCOC why this certification is missing.
He said that “unfortunately, no letter/explanation by the chairman of Comelec was likewise submitted to the JCOC.” He said the letter “is mandated to be submitted at least 30 days before election day.”
Larrazabal said, “Why was no letter/explanation submitted by the office of the Comelec chairman, as head of the agency, to the JCOC?”
Jimenez, for his part, said the Comelec needs to finish its pre-logic and accuracy test (Pre-LAT) before the TEC finalizes its technical report.
“All I know about that certification is that it will be issued after the pre-LAT is finished,” he said.
The pre-LAT is supposed to be finished Thursday or Friday, he said.
Jimenez was also asked to confirm if the Comelec has indeed failed to submit a letter explaining why the TEC has not filed a certification before the JCOC.
Jimenez said he has no information on the matter.
Brillantes: Elections not ‘null and void’
Despite the failure to certify the voting system before the JCOC, Brillantes on Friday allayed fears over the poll body’s “deficiencies.”
“Defects and deficiencies will always be encountered, and non-compliance of some mandatory requirements of the law will not render the entire process null and void,” Brillantes said in a statement.
Brillantes, for one, agreed that the TEC certification is mandatory under the law.
The former elections chief, however, said that the lack of a TEC report “will not render the elections null and void.”
In a phone interview with Rappler, Brillantes said, “Since hindi nagawa, anong gagawin mo do’n? Hindi itutuloy ang eleksyon dahil walang TEC report?” (Since it was not accomplished, what will you do with that? Will we not push through with the elections because there’s no TEC report?)
“Wala namang kasalanan ang tao,” he added. (It’s not the people’s fault.)
He said critics can always run after the Comelec over this requirement after the May 9 elections.
For one, he said, they can file an administrative case against Comelec officials over certain deficiencies.
Before pointing out the lack of a TEC report, Larrazabal also criticized the Comelec for pushing for mall voting, as well as a rule allowing replacement ballots on election day.
On Larrazabal’s criticisms, Brillantes said former Comelec members “should not be too publicity conscious in criticizing deficiencies of any current commission.”
“The better alternative is for former Comelec officials to meet with the incumbents and assist in solving problems and deficiencies instead of picturing oneself as seemingly knowledgeable of everything on election matters,” he added./ Paterno Esmaquel II / Rappler.com