Rafanan: Poll automation machines not fool-proof

by Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at May 27 2009 08:09 PM | Updated as of May 28 2009 04:56 AM

The automation machines that will be used in the May 2010 national elections are not fail-safe from manipulation, despite the stringent standards set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Ferdinand Rafanan, chair of the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC), admitted that the poll body “is not looking for a fool-proof machine.”

Besides, “nothing is fool-proof,” Rafanan said, replying to questions on whether the machines would be impregnable from attempts to control or manipulate the machines using an outside device or source.

The concern cropped up after Rafanan, during Wednesday's end-to-end demonstration of the machines of Smartmatic and Total Information Management (Smartmatic/TIM), barred any “electronic device” that could interfere with the operation of the machines and the transmission of results.

He likened the set-up to an airplane where electronic devices that could interrupt the radar operations and flight are supposed to be turned off.

However, he later clarified that cellular phones and laptops will be allowed during the demonstration. As of posting, the demonstration was still on-going.

Checklist

Rafanan also acknowledged that the requirement that the machines should be fail-safe from any outside manipulation is not included in the Terms of Reference, in particular, the systems evaluation checklist.

The checklist, consisting of 26 items, are the system requirements that the machine should be able to comply with before it is approved by the SBAC for use in the national polls.

The checklist varies from the basic requirement that it should allow manual feeding of ballots to stringent ones, such as it should ensure an accuracy rate of 99.995 percent. This means that the machines should only commit one mistake for every 20,000 vote marks.

As of posting, Smartmatic/TIM’s machines were able to comply with six items in the checklist. Rafanan said the most crucial item that the machines should be able to deliver is the 99.995 percent accuracy rate and its transmission and consolidation capabilities.

The consortium of Smartmatic/TIM was the one declared by the SBAC as the only complying bidder left based on eligibility, legal, technical and financial screening.

A second group, the joint venture of AMA and ES&S, has filed a motion for reconsideration after it was disqualified for failing to submit some documents.

Rafanan said Smartmatic/TIM must pass all the system evaluation requirements. A single failing mark in any item on the list would result in Smartmatic’s disqualification.

The Comelec is rushing to beat its deadline to automate next year’s election. It obtained an P11.3 billion budget for its most ambitious project so far.