Monday, July 6, 2009

On the (Possible) Horrors of the 2010 Poll Automation

A canvas of hope was bared to the Filipinos when the news of the poll automation for the 2010 elections was heard. It was actually already being processed much earlier, taking its first pilot testing during the ARMM elections just recently. All was seemingly running alright – the passing of the bill, the bidding, among other, until…well, until the ‘misunderstanding’ that surfaced between the partners that is suppose to provide the mechanism for automation, between SmartMatic and TIM.

The past week really got me worried, seeing the dissolution of a personal hope to at least reduce the widespread fraud during elections, especially during ‘manually-operated’ elections. COMELEC almost conceded to the inevitable fact that we might be going back after all to the manual one if these two companies would not be able to settle their ‘misunderstandings’. Friday came and at least, and I say at least, poll automation would still be underway.

But this sudden dent in the processing of the said operation for our election severely puts the whole automation process in a terrible doubt. Why, after all the harrowing bidding phase, would companies screw things up now in a very suspicious reason as money (this, of course, being the one of the reasons released by the media)? Money talk inevitably leads most of us to the ‘backstage’ activities of the present administration which could possibly making deliberate moves to weaken the poll automation (where, possibly, people such as Garcillano and her ‘lady boss’ would not be able to do much). But it gets more complicated when the opposition was also accused of having a hand in the recent problems that confronted the process of automating the elections. Again I say it is a good thing that things are underway now but still, doubts loom onto this issue, not in the least is the possibility of hacking.

With a computer system, one particularly powerful person (with money) could hire another to infiltrate the system and therefore manipulate the counting process of the system. Impossible? Nah. Entirely plausible. With the way things come up now of how hungry some of politician out there, I would not be surprise if this issue of hacking would surface by 2010. As a physics student, I came to realize that in dealing with such stuff (i.e. computer systems) a small action could result to drastic or perhaps devastating results (i.e., the manipulation of the results, of the numbers).
The suggestion of releasing the source code of the system to be used in the automation is a good one as it would give the general public the chance to actually look into the workings of the system. (I would leave out now the problems of having the source code studied by possible hackers; I’d be too much of a pessimist now if I to pursue that line of thought). Let me just confine myself to the good sides of having the code of the system publicly-accessible.

In the next months we will see how our officials (especially the COMELEC) would tackle the preparation for the automation. With the public getting more and more vigilant, they cannot afford to make any hocus-focus anymore and then say “I am sorry” later. Elections should not be a race for power but instead an intelligent process of securing our future as a nation. The basic idea after all is to have officials who would serve the people. Nothing else.

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