Source codes for 2019 polls brought to BSP for safekeeping

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2019 11:48 PM

MANILA - The source codes for the Automated Election System (AES) that will be used in the 2019 midterm polls in May were transferred Friday from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office in Intramuros, Manila to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Comelec's Education and Information Department Director James Jimenez took out the source codes for the Election Management System (EMS), Vote Counting Machines (VCMs), and Canvassing and Consolidation System (CCS) from the safe shortly before lunchtime and immediately transported these to the BSP.

The source codes refer to the plain text versions of the software that will be used in the upcoming polls.

The EMS source code was placed in a lock box and put inside a ballot box with a padlock, while the codes for the CCS and VCM were placed inside a separate lock box.

Jimenez said this is because the trusted build for the EMS code took place on Dec. 14, 2018 in the US, while that of the CCS and VCM was conducted on Jan. 7 here in Manila.

The codes have to be put in escrow at the BSP, by virtue of an escrow agreement its officials inked with the Comelec also on Friday. Those who signed the agreement were Dahlia Luna, BSP Senior Assistant Governor, Currency Management Sector; Elmore Capule, BSP Senior Assistant Governor and General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel and Legal Services; Josephine Olivete, Director, BSP Cash Department; and Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino, Jr.

Under Republic Act 9369, the source codes have to be deposited with the BSP for safekeeping.

“By depositing these source codes, we are creating a trusted archival copy of the source codes, which will now serve as the indispensable anchor of the entire automated election system’s reliability, credibility, and integrity. And for this, we owe a great deal to the BSP,” Tolentino said.

The BSP assured the public that the codes will be kept secure. The codes for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 polls are also still held in escrow at the BSP.

“The BSP is committed in ensuring that the 2019 elections source codes are kept safe while in the custody of the BSP, with the necessary security protocols in place,” Luna said.

Apart from a closed circuit camera system, there are several layers of security before the Comelec safes inside the BSP vault may be accessed: 3 security posts for registration and log-in; a 2-man number combination access to the vault; 2 layers of locked “cages,” and finally, a key-and-number combination access to the Comelec safes.

The codes may be retrieved by the poll body with the approval of the BSP when the need arises, like in cases of election protests where the integrity of the counting machines and AES is put in question. The codes for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 elections have never been taken out of the BSP vault to date.