HARRY L. ROQUE, JR., JOEL R. BUTUYAN, ROMEL R. BAGARES, ALLAN JONES F. LARDIZABAL, GILBERT T. ANDRES, IMMACULADA D. GARCIA, ERLINDA T. MERCADO, FRANCISCO A. ALCUAZ, MA. AZUCENA P. MACEDA, and ALVIN A. PETERS Vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Represented by HON. CHAIRMAN JOSE MELO, COMELEC SPECIAL BIDS and AWARDS COMMITTEE, represented by its CHAIRMAN HON. FERDINAND RAFANAN, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET and MANAGEMENT, represented by HON. ROLANDO ANDAYA, TOTAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT CORPORATION and SMARTMATIC INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, G.R. No. 188456, FEBRUARY 10, 2010; with accompanying case: PETE QUIRINO-QUADRA vs. SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by its President, JUAN PONCE ENRILE, G.R. No. 188456, FEBRUARY 10, 2010.
Re: Pars. (f) and (g), Section 6 of Republic Act No. (RA) 8436, or the Election Modernization Act, as amended by RA 9369.
Decretal : DECISION, dated September 10, 2009, denying the petitions.
“x x x.
A view has been advanced regarding the susceptibility of the AES to hacking, just like the voting machines used in certain precincts in Florida, USA in the Gore-Bush presidential contests. However, an analysis of post-election reports on the voting system thus used in the US during the period material and the AES to be utilized in the 2010 automation project seems to suggest stark differences between the two systems. The first relates to the Source Code, defined in RA 9369 as human readable instructions that define what the computer equipment will do. The Source Code for the 2010 AES shall be available and opened for review by political parties, candidates and the citizens arms or their representatives; whereas in the US precincts aforementioned, the Source Code was alleged to have been kept secret by the machine manufacture company, thus keeping the American public in the dark as to how exactly the machines counted their votes. And secondly, in the AES, the PCOS machines found in the precincts will also be the same device that would tabulate and canvass the votes; whereas in the US, the machines in the precincts did not count the votes. Instead the votes cast appeared to have been stored in a memory card that was brought to a counting center at the end of the day. As a result, the hacking and cheating may have possibly occurred at the counting center.
Additionally, with the AES, the possibility of system hacking is very slim. The PCOS machines are only online when they transmit the results, which would only take around one to two minutes. In order to hack the system during this tiny span of vulnerability, a super computer would be required. Noteworthy also is the fact that the memory card to be used during the elections is encrypted and read-only meaning no illicit program can be executed or introduced into the memory card.
Therefore, even though the AES has its flaws, Comelec and Smartmatic have seen to it that the system is well-protected with sufficient security measures in order to ensure honest elections.
And as indicated earlier, the joint venture provider has formulated and put in place a continuity and back-up plans that would address the understandable apprehension of a failure of elections in case the machines falter during the actual election. This over-all fall-back strategy includes the provisions for 2,000 spare PCOS machines on top of the 80,000 units assigned to an equal number precincts throughout the country. The continuity and back-up plans seek to address the following eventualities:(1) The PCOS fails to scan ballots; (2) The PCOS scans the ballots, but fails to print election returns (ERs); and/or (3) The PCOS prints but fails to transmit the ERs. In the event item #1 occurs, a spare PCOS, if available, will be brought in or, if not available, the PCOS of another precinct (PCOS 2 for clarity), after observing certain defined requirements, shall be used. Should all the PCOS machines in the entire municipality/city fail, manual counting of the paper ballots and the manual accomplishment of ERs shall be resorted to in accordance with Comelec promulgated rules on appreciation of automated ballots. In the event item #2 occurs where the PCOS machines fail to print ERs, the use of spare PCOS and the transfer of PCOS-2 shall be effected. Manual counting of ERs shall be resorted to also if all PCOS fails in the entire municipality. And should eventuality #3 transpire, the following back-up options, among others, may be availed of: bringing PCOS-1 to the nearest precinct or polling center which has a functioning transmission facility; inserting transmission cable of functioning transmission line to PCOS-1 and transmitting stored data from PCOS-1 using functioning transmission facility.
The disruption of the election process due to machine breakdown or malfunction may be limited to a precinct only or could affect an entire municipal/city. The worst case scenario of course would be the wholesale breakdown of the 82,000 PCOS machines. Nonetheless, even in this most extreme case, failure of all the machines would not necessarily translate into failure of elections. Manual count tabulation and transmission, as earlier stated, can be done, PCOS being a paper-ballot technology. If the machine fails for whatever reason, the paper ballots would still be there for the hand counting of the votes, manual tabulation and transmission of the ERs. Failure of elections consequent to voting machines failure would, in fine, be a very remote possibility.
X x x.”