PCOS source code review starts

VERA Files
Tinig Ng Botante

By Mikha Flores, VERA Files

The much-awaited source code review for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in Monday’s mid-term elections started Thursday after the Commission on Elections formally obtained the source code after months of negotiations.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the release of the source code will now end speculations about the credibility of the automated elections and will help prove that the May 13 polls will be “proper, accurate and secure”.

The election chief received a copy of the source code, contained in a CD, from Dominion Voting Systems, the owner of the technology. Dominion presented the PCOS source code certified by third-party SLI global solutions.

The source code is the readable computer program that runs the PCOS machines. It is protected by individual passwords set by Comelec, SLI and Dominion.

Its release has been held up by an ongoing court battle in the United States between Dominion and Smartmatic, the supplier of the PCOS machines which were used in 2010 and again in next Monday’s mid-term elections.

Brillantes lauded Dominion and Smartmatic for setting aside their differences and entering into an agreement “in good faith.” He did not divulge the details of the deal that facilitated the release of the source code as this might affect the on-going civil suit in Delaware.

After it was turned over to the Comelec, the source code was then transferred to a desktop computer which will be used by political parties and interested groups in reviewing the program.

Lawyer Jose Tolentino, the head of Comelec’s Project Management Office, explained that the computer does not contain any program aside from the Windows operating system, software for the printer and the source code.

It was also copied to another encrypted CD which was placed in a safety box along with the source code of the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS). The box was transported to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for safekeeping.

Representatives from the Liberal Party, the United Nationalist Alliance and the citizen arm Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting started reviewing the source code. IT specialists say a review takes months to complete.

Senatorial candidate Richard Gordon has gone to the Supreme Court to compel the Comelec to release the source code but the case is now moot and academic.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)