Examination of impounded PCOS machines should continue–Pimentel

June 13, 2010 11:17 pm 

MANILA, June 13 —Senate Minority Leader Aquilno Pimentel, Jr. on Sunday said the forensic examination of 60 impounded precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines should continue until it is completed.

The PCOS machines were found being kept inside the residence of a technician of Smartmatic, contractor of the poll automation project, in Antipolo City shortly after the May 10 elections.

Pimentel urged the Commission on Elections to authorize the disclosure of the source codes for the voting machines so that the scrutiny can be done by neutral information technology experts from the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), as requested by Congress.

Unless the forensic examination is completed, the allegation that the PCOS machines were used for illegal transmission of election results to favor certain candidates would not be resolved, he said.

He aired this in reaction to a statement of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that the voting machines, that were placed under Senate custody, should be transferred back to the Comelec.

“I would suggest to the Senate president to hang on to the PCOS machines under examination and to act on the requirement of allowing the source codes that are kept in the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas be made available,” the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel said if the Comelec officials concerned would not cooperate with Congress, especially by refusing to provide the source codes, “they would be complicit in sabotaging the will of the people.”

“Perhaps the Comelec in general is hesitant to produce the evidence against the wrongdoing of its own people. Probably, that is keeping them from performing what they should do, in this particular instance, the release of the sources codes so that the PCOS machines can be examined forensically,” he said.

Pimentel said that although six of the impounded voting machines were opened in the presence of representatives of the computer society, Comelec and Smartmatic, no actual examination was done due to the absence of the source codes.

However, he was informed that the initial examination of the machines showed that their “hash codes” did not match with the hash codes as listed in the records of Comelec.

Pimentel also urged the Comelec and Smartmatic to comply with the directive of Congress for a full inventory of all PCOS machines and compact flash or memory cards that were used in the elections.

He said the PCOS machines and CF cards must be preserved because they are needed by the Comelec in resolving protests by losing candidates who claim that the cards had been pre-programmed to manipulate the results.

One of the complainants, Quezon City Congresswoman Annie Susano came in possession of samples of the allegedly tampered CF cards. Pimentel said Susano shared with him the contents of one CF card that was presumably taken from one of the PCOS machines used in the elections in the city.

“When the CF card was opened by the use of a privately-owned computer, it disclosed that of the seven sensors in the PCOS machine from which the card was taken, four were put on and off at certain intervals and three were permanently switched off,” he said.

The sensors are devices that read the contents of the ballots when they are processed by the PCOS machine.

“One does not have to be an IT expert to understand that a reading of the sensor settings of the CF card readily shows that something was basically wrong with that particular PCOS machine. The switching of sensors on-and-off meant that some voters were counted some of the time, while others were not counted most of the time,” Pimentel said.

He said it did not speak well of all the PCOS machines that were used throughout the country.

“Nonetheless, if one of the PCOS machines did go wrong or was programmed to read some votes in some of the columns of the candidates and not read in others at certain times, there is ground for alarm that all was not well with the automate election system that was used in the May elections,” Pimentel said.(PNA) RMA/rudyma

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