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Comelec: 82 enhancements included in vote counting machines

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 4/20/2019 Edith Regalado
a group of people around each other: Comelec: 82 enhancements included in vote counting machines © File Comelec: 82 enhancements included in vote counting machines

MANILA, Philippines — Eighty two new features have been included in the vote counting machines (VCMs) that will be used in the midterm polls to make them more secure and efficient, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said last Tuesday.

Comelec Commissioner Mario Casquejo said the 82 enhancements were part of the conditions that the poll body made when it purchased from Smartmatic the more than 91,000 VCMs first used in the 2016 elections. 

Casquejo added that most of the enhancements came from the recommendations of the political parties, civil society groups and individuals that conducted reviews of the source code.

The source code is an alpha-numeric instruction that dictates how the automated election system (AES) should operate. An unauthorized change would indicate that the system has been tampered with.

“The role of Smartmatic in the elections is more on technical support and we asked them to make some enhancements when we exercised our option to purchase the machines,” he noted.

Casquejo added that there are some suggestions by the local source code reviewers that have not been carried out but they hope to address them for the 2022 polls.  

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said one of these improvements is the simultaneous saving of data to both memory cards in the AES.  

“Most of the enhancements are not really things that the voter will see because they are in the operations of the system… The simultaneous saving is easy to understand but there are others using a particular (technical) language,” Jimenez added.

But Jimenez assured the public that the “net effect is these enhancements will improve the security and efficiency of the (AES).”

Alex Ramos, a local source code reviewer from the administration Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, told Comelec reporters that he believes the AES is “secured.”

Ramos added that they got a “better understanding” of the system because the Comelec had allowed them to review not just three, but 11 codes, including those pertaining to the cue server for the transmission of election results.

“It’s one of the issues in the past elections. But finally, it has become part of our source code review and we were educated about its real functions,” he said.

Ramos added that this gave them “some peace of mind that it is not really a major issue as it allows efficient service of the transmission.”

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