Monsod warns of high-tech cheating with full automation


Posted at Mar 13 2009 02:02 AM | Updated as of Apr 03 2009 10:19 PM

With a single "self-destructing" code, Filipinos would not know whether the 2010 automated national elections were massively manipulated, former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Christian Monsod warned Thursday.

Monsod traced the problem to the COMELEC plan's to lease voting machines running on proprietary software, which makes the system vulnerable to cheating. 

"If I put a command there that the computer adds four votes per precinct to a certain name only, and that program says this is activated 7 in the morning and self destructs at 9 in the may not even be able to detect it afterwards," Monsod told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

With just a few taps on the keyboard, he said a software maintenance guy can easily add one million votes to a certain candidate, including those running for president.

"Those four votes per precinct equal one million nationwide... The more complicated the code is, the more difficult of detection," Monsod added.

Transition is too fast?

The former poll chief said the COMELEC, now headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, is moving too fast from manual to automated elections, a transition that allegedly has not been done even in developed countries.

If full automation of the 2010 election pushes through, the Philippines would be the first to drastically shift from manual to automated elections, he said.

Instead of rushing the automation of the electoral system in the country, Monsod said the Comelec should "take it easy" and study the statistics of recent elections.

"I have always been for automation. I started it. But I'm saying, let's take it stage by stage," he said. "We are creating [new] problems."

He said the COMELEC should first address the main problem, which is manual canvassing, where, he said, cheating usually occurs. "If the problem is in canvassing, let's automate the canvassing."

Monsod said election cheating can still be prevented with manual voting and automated canvassing.

The former poll chief, plus a group of IT professionals called, have been pushing for the Open Election System (OES) management software.

Melo has said that the COMELEC is not completely turning down proposals to use OES in the 2010 elections. He said this system is on standby in case fully-automated elections fail to push through.