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Politics, vanj padilla

Election 2016: How safe is our automated election system?

The 2016 National and local election is just around the corner. The smell of politics is more reeking than the Christmas air.The Filipinos are nauseated with the demolition jobs that every opposing parties do to their rivals. The media has been pounding the citizens with sensational news almost every minute of the day.

Smartmatic Philippines officials led by Cesar Flores, CEO (leftmost)

One night in BGC, we have met with guys from Smartmatic Asia Pacific and we were given the chance to ask questions regarding the automated election system. Smartmatic is the supplier or seller of PCOS machines that were used during the last Philippine elections.

According to them, Comelec was able to save billions of pesos for using their technology and equipment. Cesar Flores, the CEO for Asia Pacific shared that the controversial company has delivered honest and clean elections to the Filipino electorates. That using automated elections, just like in any other country minimized electoral fraud, protests, and all other misdeeds relative to elections.

But to the first time voters, what does the automation cover?

1. The election process– voting, counting, canvassing and proclamation

2. Minimizes flying voters as the technology allocates each and every precinct’s corresponding voters as programmed into the machine

Sharing the table with these guys gave us the chance to ask them some burning questions. So I started with:

(Smartmatic’s answers are those in blue text)

1. Is this automated election system fraud-proof?

“Some parties will will try to tamper the ballots, because everybody wants to win, but since our system saves scanned files of the ballot that the voter inserts into the machine, it automatically saves a copy to the server for printing. So if you tampered a ballot after the scanning process, it will not produce the same result. And during election protests, recounts the original data is still saved to the CF cards so it will still yield what was originally scanned.

If the pre-marking is done before the elections, the machine will not read multiple marked ballots. So if you can do that, its either you have access to the Comelec, access to our server and have an access to alter our system. “

2. Can someone insert a virus or just corrupt the PCOS machine?

“No. First, physical access to the system is limited to 2 memory card slots, which will be secured using a serially labelled lock. These locks would prevent or make it obvious that the machine has been tampered with.

Furthermore, the Operating system used in the PCOS is Linux, which as a platforms very secure, employing access controls to the limit the activities of profiles. This operating system environment will not tolerate presence of virus and malware, or at the very least prevent such malicious programming from running. ”

3. Can there be a switching or election results during the transmittal, or can someone hack the transmission of results?

“The transmittal will only run for more or less two minutes so it is very hard to hack it.”

My last question was somewhat intriguing, I asked them, “If you are doing the right thing for the Filipinos, how come you seem to have so many enemies? And who are they?”

If you are doing the right thing, why do you have so many enemies?

Cesar Flores just smiled and said ” there still are sectors that do not want automated elections simply because they wanted to go back to MANUAL ELECTIONS. As you know, manual elections can be subject to dagdag-bawas, to the proliferation of the old system of the 3 Gs– guns, goons and gold so they can rig the results. Because as the election process becomes longer and with heavy human intervention, it is prone to errors. That is what Smartmatic PCOS machine eradicated.”

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Smartmatic is a group of over 600 specialists dedicated to creating and deploying innovative technology for people to make their governments more transparent and efficient. You’ll find them in the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Philippines etc.

They also have this business unit called LeGIT of Large eGovernment Infrastructure Technology. It creates and deploys technology that helps governments become more transparent and efficient in areas outside of elections. Its smart cities wirk , for example helps meet challenges associated with growing urban populations, in the areas of health, safety and transport.