Friday, March 20, 2015

Doing the wrong thing wrongly

In a meeting I attended some two weeks ago, one of those present asked the group, “Which is better, do the right thing wrongly? Or, do the wrong thing rightly?” One guy very quickly replied, “Of course, do the right thing wrongly.” Everybody agreed, because even when one does the right thing wrongly, he would most likely do it right, sooner or later anyway. On the other hand, doing the wrong thing—rightly or wrongly—will forever be wrong.
I am reminded of this little anecdote because I thought it applies, in a very bad way, to a system that we have been fighting against, for some years now. I refer to the automated system that the Cmelec used in 2010 and 2013 – Smartmatic’s PCOS system.
That system is a classic example of doing the wrong thing wrongly!
Why is it the wrong thing? Well, primarily, the system is not transparent. The very title of R.A. 9369 says, “AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO USE AN AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM …TO ENCOURAGE TRANSPARENCY, CREDIBILITY . . . ”.
And Section 1 of the same law says, “ . . . the use of an automated election system that will ensure . . . that the process shall be transparent and credible . . . ”.
The law puts much emphasis on TRANSPARENCY and CREDIBILITY, for many good reasons. If the voters do not see and do not understand how their votes were counted, then they will not know if they were counted accurately. Credibility will therefore be in question. If the system lacks transparency and a losing candidate was cheated, he will find it difficult to gather evidence to support his case.
For these reasons, Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland, Australia went back from automated to manual. I understand that 18 of the 30 countries that have automated their election systems have reverted to the manual system. Japan, Malaysia, the United Kingdom have been counting their votes at the precincts manually ever since. So all those Congressmen who say that to go back to manual counting at the precinct level would be like going back to the Dark Ages, do not really know what they are talking about.
Secondarily, Smartmatic’s PCOS system is about three to four times more expensive than the alternative that election advocates, who are IT and systems savvy and therefore know what they are talking about, have been recommending.
It’s bad enough that they did the wrong thing; Comelec and Smartmatic did the implementation wrongly, too!
• Comelec’s bidding rules disallowed subcontracting of major components of the bid, yet Smartmatic subcontracted both the hardware and software components of its bid, and worse, DID NOT DISCLOSE THIS TO THE COMELEC, as also required by the rules!
• Smartmatic never met the required accuracy level of 99.995% in any of its tests and mock elections.
• They removed all the safeguards!
• They didn’t allow the source code to be reviewed by political parties and groups, as required by law.
• Digital signatures were not implemented, as required by law.
• Controls in the canvassing system were very loose. It’s doubtful that they even completed it.
• Brillantes proclaimed senatorial “winners” with only 23% of the votes canvassed. This is clearly illegal. (He’s a lawyer, isn’t he?)
Comelec and Smartmatic did the wrong thing wrongly! Yet! Yet, Mr. Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr., former Chairman, was quoted to have said that the 2013 elections were the best elections the country ever had! He must have been dreaming. Let me quote from Winnie Monsod’s column:
The Electoral Integrity Project, as well as its 2014 Report puts “… our country in the bottom third of all countries surveyed, it is safe to say that all that vaunted money spent for computerized elections was a monumental waste.”
“The Philippines’ lowest scores among the 11 categories in the electoral cycle were in campaign finance (36), voter registration (41) and the voting process (53). We received a score of 68 for vote count, a 61 for vote results, and a 64 for electoral authorities. A score of 100 is the theoretical best, but the highest scores achieved by any country for any election were, respectively, 79 for campaign finance, 95 for voter registration, 88 for voting process, 99 for vote count, 96 for vote results, and 98 for electoral authorities. So we’ve got a long way to go.”
It’s not as though we don’t have other choices. We do. Only Comelec, some congressmen, some officials in Malacañang, and seemingly, some justices of the Supreme Court, think we don’t! Or pretend that we don’t. It’s time for them to discard hardheadedness (or in the case of some, self-interest) and instead, to think of what’s good for the country. We’re talking here of our elections, for chrissakes, which is when we choose who we want our leaders to be. Quoting Winnie Monsod again, “… making sure our election system accurately reflects the voters’ choices is the first priority of our country. Ranking higher than the Mamasapano controversy and higher than the Binay investigation …”
Haaynaku! Is it the money? (Billions of pesos are involved.) Is it so cheating would be easier? (The stakes are extremely high.) Or is it plain and simple incompetence? (Will they get that far in government if they were?) Whichever … it is us, the people, who are the losers.

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