Andres Bonifacio College

College Park, Dipolog City, Philippines 7100

by eSMO on 03 19th, 2010
 Abcollege holds Automated Elections Seminar

Abcollege holds Automated Elections Seminar

The Andres Bonifacio College in coordination with the City Government of Dipolog through the City Legal Office and the City Commission on Elections (COMELEC) recently held “e-POLLS: A Seminar on the May 2010 Automated Elections” at the Audio-Visual Room of the Science and Technology Building last  March 13, 2010.

On May 10, 2010, the Philippines will be partaking in a historical event as it holds its very first automated national elections. Elections in the country have always been undertaken manually. The counting of votes could take months before the winners are proclaimed as in the case for elections involving national positions, making it prone to cheating and other electoral frauds. Republic Act 9369 or the amended Automated Election Systems Law, the governing law behind the May 2010 automated elections, is set to lessen, if not solve, the perennial problems of the old election system.

The said seminar was attended by a select group of Political Science, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Electronics and Communications Engineering students of the college. The  primary aim was  to educate them on how the automated system works and to explain the new voting process. In turn, the students will become liaisons to their own barangays and communities by addressing any doubts and concerns regarding the May 2010 automated elections .

An elite team composed of the personnel from the City Legal Office and the City COMELEC of Dipolog shared their knowledge and expertise on the new election system. Atty. James Cyril O. Ruiz, the  former City Legal Officer,  gave an overview of the automation while Mr. Arvin L. Bonbon, the  Assistant Officer I, spoke on the new election process and on the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machine. Mr. Melpre A. Mercadera of the City COMELEC   demonstrated on how the machines operate and how the  votes are counted using the PCOS . Mrs. Viola A. Pino, the  Assistant Legal Officer II, gave an orientation on what to do during and after the election.

It was  noted that there were  concerns regarding the vulnerability of the PCOS machines to hackers. The machines were actually designed to counter hacking by employing a 128-bit code which according to a top hacker could take two months to decipher. Under the new system, votes are stored as digital information which is then sent to a central station to be recorded on a mainframe computer via the internet. The machines need to be online for two to three minutes only which will make the information impossible for hackers to corrupt or alter.

Other notable safety measures of the PCOS machines are the following: security key-enabled (provided to two BEI members), removable storage (similar to a memory card), operable in AC or DC supply (a battery pack is provided to each PCOS in case of power failure), digital signature, precinct-specific ballots (which means that a PCOS can only scan ballots containing bar codes identical to that of the machine’s). After a ballot has been scanned, the machine will no longer read the ballot the second time it is fed. As opposed to the ballots used in the previous elections, the new ballots already contain the names of the candidates. Casting of votes is done by shading a corresponding oval-shaped figure before each name using a specially designed marker. SMARTMATIC, Inc., maker of the PCOS machines and its peripherals, is confident the new process will ensure fair, honest, and fast elections. The Philippines is expected to have a new president in just thirty six hours and a new set of local officials in just one day.

It can be remembered that the country had its first computerized elections during the 2008 elections of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It served as a test for the preparedness of the country and adaptability of the automation process under RA 9369.

The seminar was concluded with an open forum which further enlightened the participants. Since it was intended for a select audience only, the attendees are expected to share their knowledge to their respective departments and ultimately educate the whole studentry on the automated elections. The youth compose forty to sixty percent of the voting majority. In their hands lies the chance to bring the country to greater change and prosperity in consonance with the rapid advances in technology. The electronic polls should ensure that the retail and wholesale cheating that  marred past elections will be finally put to an end. (Jefferson Manrique)

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