Senator Koko Pimentel III expressed dismay and displeasure that the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), a body created under the Automated Election Law, has not yet certified the automated election system (AES) to be used in the coming national and local polls “with just a little over a month or around 30 days before May 13.”
The lawmaker explained that under Republic Act No. 8436, as amended by R.A. No. 9369, the TEC is tasked to certify at least 3 months or 90 days before elections that the AES is operating properly, securely, and accurately.
The body is composed of representatives from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“This is the fourth national election that we are using an automated election system, and we still experience delays on this mandatory requirement.”
“The TEC failed again to meet the deadline to submit its certification three months before the May 13 polls, which should have been last February 13, 2019,” noted Pimentel, who chairs the Senate panel of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES).
Under the law, the computer system undergoes rigorous hardware and software certification. The process includes field testing through mock elections, a source code review, certification that the code is kept in escrow at the Bangko Sentral, and laying out a continuity plan in the event of a system failure.
“If in case the COMELEC decides to use the AES without the TEC’s certification, it must submit a letter to the JCOC-AES to explain the non-submission a month before the elections,” Pimentel reminded.
In a JCOC-AES Technical Working Group meeting last April 8, Chairman Peter Antonio Banzon of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ASTI) explained that the TEC has not issued the certification because they were waiting for the issuance of the COMELEC’s “continuity plan” and the installation of the trusted build in all of the machines at the COMELEC warehouse.
Pimentel expressed deep and serious concern when confronted with the revelations.
“This is the fourth national election that we are using an automated election system, and we still experience delays on this mandatory requirement. During the last 2016 elections, the TEC issued its certification just four days before the May 9 polls. Haven’t we learned from past experience?”
The lawyer-legislator further explained that overseas absentee voting starts on April 13, with a number of vote counting machines already being sent to other countries, yet the TEC has not given its stamp of approval in the system’s deployment.
“We cannot blame the public if it raises doubts and questions about the integrity of the AES if there’s always a failure in complying with the law. That’s why I call and demand for the TEC certification’s immediate issuance, or the COMELEC must explain why there is still none,” Pimentel said.
“We cannot blame the public if it raises doubts and questions about the integrity of the AES if there’s always a failure in complying with the law.”