MANILA - The finalization of the software for the Automated Election System has been delayed anew.
This, as the Commission on Elections discovered new problems in the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) and the Vote Counting Machines (VCM). This was announced by the poll body in a joint briefing with Smartmatic and American certification agency, SLI Global Solutions.
SLI, who was contracted by the Comelec to review and certify the source code of the automated election system, is now in the process of constructing the Trusted Build or final software of the three main components of the Automated Elections: the Election Management System (EMS), CCS, and VCM.
However, SLI confirmed Wednesday that they have encountered problems in the creation and installation of the ISO image of the CCS.
"The problem happened when we had to take the program and make it installable. When we make it installable, we basically have to make an ISO image. Yung paggawa ng ISO image na yun, yun ang nagka-problema," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez explained.
SLI representative Michael Santos said addressing the issue would mean rebuilding the CCS, which might take between 6 to 8 hours.
The poll body, however, was quick to clarify that this does not mean rebuilding the CCS from scratch.
SLI added that they also found problems in the Vote Counting Machines during Monday's test run.
The poll body earlier explained that the machines have been equipped with a self-diagnostic feature that is able to alert the BEI if the printer is dirty.
However, the sensitive nature of the machine causes the VCMs to reject ballots that contain even small ink dots. Jimenez said that the ink dots are normal as they are using inkjet printers.
"There was a 1 to 2 percent rejection rate. We were calculating that if you look at 54.3 million ballots, that's already a million ballots. That should not be the case," Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said. The poll body said it is faced with three options: 1) to turn off the self-diagnosing feature of the machine, 2) adjust the sensitivity of the VCM, 3) reprint rejected ballots.
The Comelec chose to change the threshold of the machine, which would entail the rebuilding of the Final Trusted Build of the VCM.
This was not the first time that they discovered problems in the system.
On Monday, the poll body said that they had to fix a critical network issue they found with the CCS. The problem necessitated the rebuilding of the already finished Final Trusted Build of the EMS to address compatibility issues with the CCS.
The glitch pushed the schedule of the printing of ballots for another week and prompted fears within the Comelec that the conduct of polls could be delayed in some areas of the country.
Bautista, however, said that the issues will not significantly change the timeline for the preparations, and that there is still enough time to address the problems.
"The only issue is with respect of time. It pushes us back a little bit particularly in respect to depositing the source code at Bangko Sentral. The mock elections is still to proceed on Saturday, the printing of ballots will start early next week," the poll chief told reporters.
Bautista said finding the issues in the preparation phase may be considered a "blessing in disguise" for Comelec instead of encountering major problems during election day.
"It is something that's fixable. While we can fix it, we're able to find out what are the challenges that potentially impact our election," he said.
Lito Averia, an IT expert, disagrees, saying that every issue discovered now would make the timetable even tighter.
"Crunch time? Para sa akin at this point in time ako nga nag-iisip na ako ng backup," he said.
"Okay ang normal process, pero not on crunch time. We have less than ninety days before elections, at nagka-crop up pa ang mga problem na yan. I do recall back in 2010 and 2013, ballot printing started sometime in January. Now it's February wala pa ring ballot printing. So ang mangyayari yan, mamadaliin pa rin ang ballot printing."
Bautista gave the assurance that the poll body is still scheduled to finish the printing of ballots by April 25.