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Comelec to open up automation source code

Posted on: August 25, 2009

Comelec to open up automation source code
August 24, 2009 23:27:00
Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) promises to make publicly available the source code of the automation software it will use in next year’s national elections.

But the poll body said it will need to have the source code certified first by an international organization.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo said the source code–or the program instructions that will define how the poll machines will operate–needs to be accredited first by an international certification body as prescribed by law before it becomes available for final review by interested IT groups, political parties and poll watchdogs.

Melo made the statement after several groups continuously prodded Comelec since last week to make the source code publicly available, saying the code review would take about three months to finish to ensure the program is sturdy against hacking.

The software will power the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) system Comelec will use next year. Smartmatic-Total Information Management will provide the system as the winning bidder.

Under the law, the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), a body created by Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law, shall certify through an established international certification entity chosen by Comelec that the poll automation system is operating properly and securely according to provisions of the law, not later than three months before Election Day.

“We will make the source code available for review once it is customized and gets certified sometime in February,” Melo said.

“The source code review is a transparency measure to make sure the operating instructions are free of malicious programs that can cause electoral fraud and is stored in escrow [with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas],” he added.

Meanwhile, Ateneo de Manila professor Renato Garcia, who sits as consultant for the poll body’s project management office (PMO) for the 2010 elections, said they have written letters to at least five of the international software certification bodies that can conduct a “formal, thorough review” of the poll automation system software.

“One of the five international software certification bodies, have already expressed interest to do the formal review of the customized automation software. This body, we found out, has been conducting a software review for Canadian-based Dominion, the software provider for Smartmatic’s poll machines,” Garcia said.

“If we can get them, the certification will be easier and faster,” he added

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