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Comelec to hold mock polls, field tests for PCOS

Posted on: October 17, 2009

Comelec to hold mock polls, field tests for PCOS
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By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:38:00 10/16/2009

Filed Under: Politics, Elections, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will hold a nationwide mock election in December and conduct five other tests before accepting and deploying the poll machines for the 2010 elections, officials said.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said as prescribed in Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law, the poll body will hold mock elections tentatively set on December 13, while field tests are set on November 28 and on December 5.

Sarmiento said two key cities or municipalities each in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will participate in the December mock elections using precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Inc.

Aside from mock polls and at least two field tests, Comelec will also hold a laboratory test for the machines, a test for electronic transmission of voting results in key sites using a public telecommunications network and final testing and sealing of the machines three days before election day, Sarmiento said.

“These five tests will be done to ensure the accuracy, functionality and security of the poll automation system, which includes the PCOS, the canvassing units and the overall technology to run the system. In the mock elections, voters will be given a chance to have a feel of automated voting and see the machines ahead of the elections,” said Sarmiento.

Early this month, Comelec received the 20 PCOS units from Smartmatic-TIM that will be used as development set for the automation system and for training 180 personnel of the poll body, Gene Gregorio, Smartmatic-TIM spokesman.

The 20 units were delivered ahead of the 82,200 PCOS machines and canvassing units set for delivery between November and January to Comelec, he said.

The technology provider has started the nationwide site survey for the country’s telecommunications infrastructure to map out the electronic transmission plan and contingency measures on what network technologies to use should cellular or land line communications are not available in the area, said Gregorio.

Regarding the source code to be installed in the PCOS and canvassing units, Gregorio said Smartmatic-TIM will turn over starting Friday its automation software to Systest Labs, the international certification agancy chosen by Comelec to review the software between October and January.

In a separate interview, Comelec legal department director Ferdinand Rafanan said Smartmatic and TIM that have formed the consortium would have joint and separate liabilities to account for the technology and implementation of the poll automation system.

This “legal accountability provision” in the contract would prevent failure of the projects like what happened in the “botched 2004 automation deal” with the Mega Pacific consortium, he added.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo also allayed fears that automation of the electoral system would result in failure of elections since the system is paper-based–special ballots with pre-printed names of all candidates are filled up by voters.

“It would be impossible that all 80,000 PCOS machines will malfunction at the same time. Even though some machines in several areas will not work, we have standby units to deploy plus contingency measures. For the worst case scenario, we have the papers to turn into if the machines cannot count the votes in the ballots,” said Melo.

Melo noted earlier that Comelec is anticipating the conduct of manual polls in problem areas.

Alongside preparations for poll automation, so it is preparing for manual balloting in at least “30 to 50 percent of the country” or those areas prone to power failures and network transmission issues, said Melo.

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