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Thursday, May 06, 2010

MEDIA RELEASE: Halalang Marangal May 6, 2010: PCOS can be used for targeted "bawas"



MANILA -- Halalang Marangal (HALAL) Secretary-general Roberto Verzola today warned that the recent spate of gross errors by the PCOS machine has revealed "an easy way to shave votes from targeted candidates, by making minor changes in the PCOS configuration file".


Verzola explained the current PCOS problems as follows: "There was a mismatch between the PCOS configuration and the ballot layout for the local candidates. The ballot layout for the local candidates was changed from single-spaced to double-spaced, but the PCOS configuration was not changed to account for the new locations of the double-spaced ovals. Thus, from the perspective of the PCOS, the ovals were misaligned. Ballot printing had changed the alignment of ovals due to the modified layout, but the PCOS was still looking for the ovals based on their original alignment. The PCOS couldn't find most of the ovals anymore, resulting in missed votes."


"Smartmatic simply needs to adjust the coordinates of the ovals for the local candidates, to conform with the modified ballot layout, to correct the misalignment. This will require changing the configuration file containing the coordinates. I agree that, properly done, this would solve this particular problem," Verzola said.


"However, this can be exploited by cheats to do targeted cheating – mostly through vote-shaving – with the PCOS machine," Verzola warns.


Verzola explained how: "All that needs to be done is to slightly change the coordinates of the oval associated with a targeted candidate, so that the printed oval on the ballot for that candidate becomes slightly misaligned with respect to the new coordinates on the configuration file. The larger the misalignment, the greater the possibility of missing the mark on the oval – this is called a false negative or a 'bawas'. Of course, the cheat would not make such a big change that the PCOS machine will miss the mark entirely – a consistently zero count would be too obvious and easily detected. But a slightly misaligned oval might be missed occasionally, say one in every ten marks, leading to a 10% shaving of votes for that particular targetted candidate."


"The COMELEC must make sure that this kind of cheating doesn't happen," Verzola said.


Halalang Marangal (HALAL) convenors include former Senator Wigberto Tañada, retired General Francisco Gudani, former COMELEC Commissioner Mehol Sadain, former St. Scholastica's President Sr. Mary John Mananzan, PRRM President Isagani Serrano, TOYM awardee Atty. Ma. Paz Luna, and IT expert Roberto Verzola.


HALAL had earlier estimated the chance of success of the election automation project at 32%.


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