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Oct 05

Konfrontasi

President flip-flops on nurses. More investigating needed -but at least students will be assisted in terms of expenses.

House of Representatives backpedals, for the moment, on its constituent assembly scheme. Too unseemly to force it through? Or a bigger chance for a big vote, as the President can leverage pork barrel releases to oppositionists from devastated provinces? Or do they know something about the Supreme Court’s coming decision no one else does?

But the Supreme Court insists the vote-counting machines can’t be used, period.

Read the Ombudsman’s report to the Supreme Court:
OMB-Supplemental-Resolution-on-the-Mega-Pacific-Case-September-27-2006.doc. Palace trying to slither away from it.

Ambassadorial appointments in disarray. Heard scuttlebutt that the Philippine consul-general in Jeddah is wildly unpopular among Filipinos there and is due to be replaced.

CBCP condemns murder of Aglipayan bishop.

Vegetables appreciate (in price). Why not a Department of Disasters?

In the punditocracy, I have to two columns today. My Arab News column for this week is Suffrage for Overseas Filipino Workers (see for the survey on overseas Filipinos). My Inquirer column for today is Konfrontasi (see the Orwell chapter I quoted).

John Mangun writes on corporate social responsibility -and billboards.

Suthichai Yoon on what the Thai junta has to do (while Thaksin’s party continues to implode).

Lurid IM’s put not only Tom Foley but his party, as Liz Sidoti puts forward, in hot water. Slate explains Foley’s an ephebophile, not a pedophile.

I’d like to reproduce the initial findings of One Voice’s lawyers, along with some documentation:

Initial findings reveal flaws, fake signatures in Sigaw’s petition – One Voice

An election officer in Jose Abad Santos, Davo del Sur certified in its report on the signature campaign submitted to the Commission on Elections that “most signatures are fabricated.”

In the first congressional district of Davao City, Acting Election Officer IV Reynee Joy B. Bullecer certified that “it appeared that of the TWENTY FOUR THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED THIRTY-FOUR (24,734) individuals, only TWENTY TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR (22,124) individuals are found to be REGISTERED VOTERS, in the Computerized Voters List of the FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, DAVAO CITY.”

These form part of the initial discoveries made by lawyers opposed to a fake people’s initiative during the first few hours of their visit to the Commission on Election’s law department where all the Sigaw ng Bayan documents are being kept.

The Supreme Court directed the Comelec to allow the opposing legal counsels to examine the documents submitted by Sigaw ng Bayan to the Commission on Elections during the oral arguments held last September 26.

“We are confident that the Supreme Court will acknowledge that the gathering of these signatures was really a tainted process,” One Voice legal counsel Atty. Carlos Medina of the Ateneo School of Law’s Human Rights Center said.

According to Atty. Neri Colmenares, some of the election officers verified to the number of individuals found to be registered voters, not the signatures submitted.

Atty. Abigail Binay, on the other hand, examined the signature sheets submitted for Makati City with double entries of names, signature of voter’s that don’t exist in the city’s voters’ registration list, among other discrepancies.

“What we have here is a collection of signatures, not a genuine people’s initiative,” Atty. Medina of One Voice said, adding that the proposed changes to the Constitution were not even attached to the signature sheets submitted to the Commission on Elections.

Initial findings of the opposing counsels are as follows:

‘ A number of certificates submitted by election officers verified not the signatures but the names in the list as corresponding to names in the voters’ registration lists.
‘ Some certificates did not state that the 3% requirement per legislative district was met.
‘ One election officer remarked that most signatures were fabricated which is supported by the signature sheets from Makati City that revealed many signatures disowned by the voters themselves.
‘ One legislative district was guided by the 2004 voters’ registration list while a different municipality relied on a more recent voters’ list.
‘ The petition containing the proposed constitutional changes was not attached to each of the signature sheets submitted to the Comelec.

The legal panel arguing against the People’s Initiative of Sigaw ng Bayan will attach all their findings with a corresponding explanation to the memorandum that they would be submitting to the Supreme Court.

“I wish we were given more time to go over each and every box, and every certificate. Based on our initial findings, we have no doubt that we have here a spurious initiative governed by a non-existent process for all the wrong reasons,” Atty. Medina stressed.

The opposing legal counsels are scheduled from Wednesday until Friday to examine the documents. Representatives of Sigaw ng Byan were also present during the examinations.

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  1. cvj

    UP Student, i would want a voting process where the secrecy of the ballot is maintained, but at the same time, where the people know for sure that the results are tabulated from the actual votes cast and is not something that has been artificially manufactured. In the hierarchy of election fraud-related risks, overt vote buying is less of a threat than ‘dagdag-bawas’. Of course, it would be a problem if someone has bought off an entire barangay, but on balance, greater transparency favors the public.

  2. UP student

    comelecAko, who holds budget-authority for this project? That there is a scandal with deliverables (with the highest court of the land fuly involved) means that a Requirements Document has been completed and a Scope of the Project (e.g. how many polling precincts will be automated) has been defined. Is this Requirements Document available? [Then cvj himself can ascertain if the items he looks for are in or out of scope. cvj again mentions “bidding process” when a bidding process has already been completed. [Of course, we now know that this bidding-process with its announced winner has been invalidated by the Supreme Court.]
    cvj is intellectually-engaged, uses “we” and he espouses parcelling out project-moneys to university students and professors, but I know he is not in the Philippines and he/cvj is not part of the project. What is your role inside Comelec? I noted that you were present when the indian elections commissioner made a visit to Comelec, are you part of the team that made the decision that the Supreme Court has invalidated? Are you on the testing team; did you work on preparing the Invitation for bids; do you approve/disapprove vendor-proposals; do you have signature authority; are you project manager?

  3. comelecAKO

    I’m inside the monolith, UP student. But I’m not a commissioner. I’m a fly on the wall who sees what’s going on, unburdened by the jaundiced preconceptions that are solidified by a constant diet of hostile and skewed media coverage. Nice to meet you.

  4. UP student

    comelecAko.. I actually wanted to know “what you are burdened with” to mean whether your department within Comelec is within personnel/HR, information-technology, customer-service, public relations or whether you are in contract-compliance within finance.

    Now you are inside the monolith… Would you know how much of the P1.3Billion has been handed already to Mega? And did the Supreme Court say that Mega should return any and all moneys that it has received from the P1.3B ?

  5. UP student

    comelecAko, After careful reading of both the supreme court decision and the Ombudsman’s report, my sentiment is that the Ombudsman’s report is thorough, professional, and credible. A project manager who has gone through enough (system) development life cycles and who has grappled with configuration management will relate to the Ombudsman when she states:
    “it should be made clear that the conclusions herein arrived at do not in any way run counter to the findings and ruling of the Supreme Court in the Infotech case.”
    The Ombudsman does address an error, and she will label it poor (maybe even extremely poor) project management. To repeat the Ombudsman’s words: “If ever an error was committed by public respondents it is a misinterpretation of the law and the RFP which can be humanly expected under the circumstances. But certainly, this cannot at once be considered criminal absent any showing of bad faith, malice or bribery in procuring the contract.” Later on, the Ombudsman also states: “Absent any indication that graft and corruption attended the bidding process, no criminal liability attaches.”

  6. UP student

    In regards the alarm that cvj has raised about how the Mega ACM’s processed improperly shaded ballots, I will still defer to to the “report of DOST (where) it is categorically stated that the results of the verification tests on the machines of Mega Pacific in fact yielded a one hundred percent (100%) accuracy rating for all three environment conditions”.

    What I perceive happened is that test-ballots were prepared with expectations for all ballots to be accepted by the scanner and the “votes” then counted. However, a few of the test cases were bad, i.e. some ballots were improperly shaded. These improperly shaded ballots were then rejected by the scanner/ACM, as well they should. The machine was not allowed to guess as to the content of the badly-prepared ballot. Improperly-shaded ballots should be set aside to be processed manually by the electoral staff at the precinct.

  7. cvj

    UP Student, i suggest you download and read the Ombudsman Field Information Officer’s report from the pcij.org weblog. Considering the amount of money involved and the consequences of not being able to deliver, the Ombudsman had probable cause to file charges under the criterion of ‘gross inexcusable negligence’.

    In the case of the ‘improperly shaded ballots’, why favor a benchmark over real-world usage? Results obtained from actual operation of the ACMs should be a consideration when deciding which system to adopt. In any case, i don’t think the staff at the precinct has the prerogative to open the ballot box as this will be delivered straight to the counting centers where the ACMs are located. As to the ‘100% accuracy test’ done by the DOST, DJB has an interesting take over at his weblog.

  8. comelecAKO

    cvj, why would the FIO’s report be somehow more credible than the Ombudsman’s? Because the FIO report dovetails with your own preconceptions? Remember, the FIO report was based on nothing more than an afternoon’s talk with Gus lagman and Maricor Akol (Gus said that on ANC, by the way), and the SC’s decision; neither of which constitute real evidence.

    As for Kilosbayan’s petition, it was based on a bunch of papers previously offered to a well-known authority – one you would respect without reservation, cvj – who turned it down because it was too flimsy and was based on a false premise: that despite coming in below the agency estimate, the project could still be over-priced because the COMELEC didn’t try to bring the price down any further. This person turned it down and so the supposed evidence was peddled around, was turned down again by an SC Justice, and finally accepted by Kilosbayan for reasons even some Kilosbayan insiders attribute to an axe in need of some grinding.

    why favor a becnhmark? because real world testing comes later. first we test whether the machine can match the parameters we set (and that’s what demonstrable capacity means), then we see how it does outside the lab. Can you imagine requiring a car to perform like a finished product when it’s still in development? Or maybe buying a PC and expecting it to come out of the box with all the cool applications you read about in PC magazine. FIRST You buy a PC that you know can handle those apps (demonstrable capability) and THEN you install the apps and see how the dang thing runs (field testing).

    as for DJB, his quibble is with the statistical method used. a method that was vetted and applied in full view of experts from all sides – IT experts, engineers, process engineers, reps from the House and from the Senate, the DOST, the works. Apparently a lot of people thought that the method was fine. Why hold that against them just because one person thinks it could have been done better? Heck this is the Philippines man! EveryONE thinks he can do everyTHING better than anyone else can.

    UP student, Mega has received approx 900++ million of the 1.24 billion price tag. And yes, the SC ordered the Solicitor General to get the money back. But when the SolGen filed the suit, MPC sued us back, asking for the 300++ million pesos in unpaid contractual obligations (which accrued because when the SC decision came out, we immediately froze payment of the 300++ million peso balance).

  9. cvj

    comelecako, not really. i try to steer clear of ‘appeals to authority’ from either side of the argument as this aproach is inferior to an actual evaluation of its merits (or demerits). The FIO makes a good case for the Comelec committing ‘gross inexcusable negligence’ in violation of RA 4019 as summarized:

    A. Even if it was fully aware that implementation was feasible because of timetable constraints (i.e. 24 months needed to implement versus 15 months left), the COMELEC still chose to target the 2004 Elections for automation. This is a risk a public trust should not have made.

    B. There has been inconsistency between the BAC and COMELEC during the bid qualification and awarding process in recognizing MPC or MPEI as legal entities. For example, the BAC awarded to MPEI while the COMELEC gave the award to MPC. Both legal personalities are defective in their own ways:

    – MPC does not meet the requirement of a joint venuture with the essential requirement of ‘joint and several liability’ among the partners. This puts the government at a gross disadvantage when it comes to seeking remedies in case of non-fulfillment by the vendor(s).

    – MPEI does not meet the 3 year track record, a violation of RFP specs.

    C. Due diligence conducted by COMELEC in terms of ensuring the technical viability of the solution was inadequate.

    – RFP criteria were relaxed. The proper remedy for failing a technical criteria has been disqualification, not rationalization. (In government bids that i have participated in, i have been disqualified for less.)

    – In the technical validation process, demo software was used , a reckless practice given the stakes.

    D. Charging on the basis of inflated exchange rates and taxes which the COMELEC is not obligated to pay is clearly grossly disadvantageous to the government.

    I understand what you say that a benchmark precedes real world testing but the reality is, that real world testing *did* happen and (i’m not saying this with respect to the case above which can stand on its own) given the new information revealed, the assessment of the ACMs should be revised. That is specially pertinent given that all the fuss about 99.995 and 99.9995 is moot and academic given that the system is vulnerable to improper shading (i.e. not ‘idiot proof’).

    It’s interesting to note that Mega Pacific sued back the government when it asked for its money back given its assurances via a written undertaking that it would return any disallowances. The contrast between the vendor’s promises and actual behavior speaks for itself.

    As for DJB’s contention, either he is right or he is wrong. Mathematics (unlike law) does not leave much room for appeals to authority.

  10. kulas

    cvj,

    “not ‘idiot proof’”

    is it Garci-proof? not an automated dagdag-bawas?

    is it Gloria-proof? how will it stand in the midst Gloria’s use of the whole machinery of gov’t, all gov’t funds, her Trapo Legions and jueteng billions? just to give a correct count of bought votes?

  11. UP student

    cvj, my perception is that the ACM rejected the improperly-shaded ballots. You seem to expect that “there will not be an improperly-shaded ballot to be created”, but this is a requirement for the ballot-marker device (or a DRE), not for the scanner/counting-machine.
    The Sept2006 Ombudsman report does address the FIO. The Sept2006 report states : “In our 28 June 2006 Resolution, the BAC members were found administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in relation to the recommendation to award the Phase II contract to MPC.” At the end of the Sept2006 document as it presents its conclusions, the report states:
    “1. That the Resolution dated 28 June 2006 be REVERSED and SET ASIDE.”

    And with respect to “The proper remedy for failing a technical criteria, ” disqualification is only one of many industry practices on the proper course of action. Configuration management’s processes will track such failures towards resoluiton (while those in the proper paygrades decide on steps based on contractual, legal and program-objective issues).

    [Hey, P900M (of P1,300M) was already paid to Mega when the Supreme Court decision was made? If that is what the contract says had to happen, so be it. But it is still amazing…I thought that the Philippine government is extremely slow to pay?]

  12. UP student

    kulas raises the real alarm. Dagdag-bawas does not happen at the precinct/polling-station level. [The drama of Voice-count, ballot per ballot, does not prevent dagdag-bawas at all!!!]
    Dagdag-bawas is at a summarization stage where a Precinct-level result of 1,000-votes-for-A and 2,000-votes-for-B becomes 1,500-for-A and 1,500-for-B when the precinct result get forwarded to the next counting stage.

  13. cvj

    UP Student, i don’t understand you first sentence. Anyway, my point is that ACMs are vulnerable to improper shading of ballots and that the workaround that you mentioned above “Improperly-shaded ballots should be set aside to be processed manually by the electoral staff at the precinct” is not feasible because the ballots are not examined at the precinct level. In all likelihood, the ballots will just be treated as spoilt. This is a usability issue which may result in a situation similar to the one experienced in Florida with the ‘hanging chads’. As i mentioned in my preceding comment, i am not using this to bolster the case against COMELEC. I’m just saying that this is one more info to consider when evaluating ACM technology in the future.

    I haven’t read the 28-June 2006 resolution – the above document i was referring to was the report submitted on September 4, 2006 by Maria Olivia A. Roxas (Graft Investigation and Prosecuting Officer) and noted by Melchor Arthur H. Carandang (Assistant Ombudsman).

    The precinct tally is not just there for ‘drama’. It is there for the people to witness the results which will establish the starting point of the audit trail. Without the witnessing, it would be easier to conjure up a bogus precinct level tally for subsequent aggregation making ‘dagdag-bawas’ much more easy to execute. On the other hand, with a clear and verifiable starting point of a publicly witnessed precinct level tally, an automated system can then track the aggregation of results at each level and spot anomalies in the process.

  14. cvj

    I understand that Industry practice may be different with the US government or in the private sector, but when it comes to the Philippine government, the National Computer Center clearly mandates disqualification for failing technical evaluation while undergoing a competitive bidding process. This is part of the two envelope system which was instituted after the ‘Topweb’ scandal during the Ramos administration. First, there is the ‘technical envelope’ where the vendors will be evaluated if they pass all the criteria. Any vendor who fails a mandatory criteria will be disqualified. All vendors who pass will then be allowed to proceed to the next round which is the opening of the ‘financial envelope’. The one with the lowest bid price will be awarded the contract.

    If a 1.3 Billion peso contract allows payment of 900 million (almost 70% downpayment) even with no system delivered and such payment is promptly made, doesn’t that give probable cause for gross inexcusable negligence on the part of the government body who approved the disbursement?

  15. cvj

    Apologies for any confusion, the sentence at 7:22pm above should read:

    A. Even if it was fully aware that implementation was NOT feasible because of timetable constraints (i.e. 24 months needed to implement versus 15 months left), the COMELEC still chose to target the 2004 Elections for automation….

  16. UP student

    Sidenote… it perplexes me that the Office of the Ombudsman did not appreciate the weight that the word “shall” carries in contract and legal matters.
    The Ombudsman makes mention that the error of “…public respondents it is a misinterpretation of the law and the RFP.” If (because of misinterpretations of the law or other matters) the Comelec commissioners in fact exceeded their authority when they awarded Phase II to Mega, a Philippine court may still find them guilty (of civil damages, if not a criminal act). To remember : “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”.

    Also to remember : that the Supreme Court is the highest authority in the land with regards law (and the constitution). This tells me that the Supreme Court can override the Ombudsman Sept-26-2006 document and the document’s “no guilt is ascribed” finding.

  17. comelecAKO

    dude, don’t you realize that you’re appealing to the FIO’s authority by putting it up as a more credible alternative with absolutely no justification? You haven’t given a good reason why it is more credible than the OMB’s decision. All you’ve done is parrot the FIO’s stupid findings based on nothing more than the say so of vested interests. You can’t even have an intelligent discussion on the merits – or the glaring lack thereof – of that finding because you’re just repeating its allegations and bad suppositions.

    For instance, about the implementation with only 15 months to go. To prove that this course of action of wrong, you would have to do better than the bare declaration about how risky this is. Of course it’s risky! Hell, even if you had 48 months to do this it’d still be risky. But there are such things as acceptable levels of risk. From a distance of more than two years and absolutely no knowledge of how the project was implemented, how can the FIO – or you – possibly say that the COMELEC did that wrong?

    As for the improper shading nonsense: the test parameters called for the ACM to read a mark where we placed a mark. the purpose was to establish that the machine could read what we marked and where we marked it. Now the machine is calibrated to recommended sensitivity which was purposely set low as a security feature. So, during the test, improperly shaded ballots weren’t read precisely because those sub-standard marks shouldn’t have been read. That was the error and it was, if anything, an error in the test parameters which was later corrected. Not an error in ACM.

    Think of it as penmanship. A good mark = good legible penmaship. A bad mark = illegible penmanship. So, since the ACM was programmed to read only good marks, it did so, even when eyeballing the ballot showed that there were marks that weren’t read. Now why were the machines calibrated this way? Because we foresaw situations where marks could be inadvertently left on the ballot that might be misread by the ACM, such as a smudge left by a voter’s dirty hands. If the ACMs were too sensitive, it might read even those marks causing even more trouble. so it was decided that the best solution would be to decrease the sensitivity and allow the machine to read only those marks that were clearly made with the clear intention of making them,i.e., marks made according to the standard we set. Although i’m sure you’re gonna disagree na naman. 🙂

    Anyway, I think its time we lay this hobbyhorse to rest, cvj. after all, we’re not automating and the fate of the ombudsman’s decision is really up to the SC. Which, by the way, denied Makalintal’s petition to test the machines by saying “If (the SC) grants this petition, we would be admitting we were wrong.”

  18. cvj

    Comelecako, to knowingly push ahead with an implementation that takes 24 months when there is only 15 months left is reckless especially when more than a billion of pesos of the people’s money is at stake. Whenever we embark on projects that we estimate will take 24 months, we normally add some buffer for contingencies for the unexpected so we will plan to deliver in, for example, 27 months. That is how responsible and mature entities go about these things.

    If you talk about ‘improper shading nonsense’, then we might as well talk about ‘GUI nonsense’. Earlier, you brought up a valid point about the usability of GUI’s in the case of the DRE approach so, along the same lines, i have brought up the relevance of ‘improper shading’ and its real-world effects. As the Florida 2000 debacle shows, a single vote is precious so we cannot, at this stage when we are evaluating alternative technologies, take ACMs as a given and just dismiss improper shading as usage errors. Regardless of what you were previously doing to adjust for the sensitivities of the ACMs, now that the field is once again open, i trust that you will take this usability issue into account when selecting the proper technology that will actually work in the real world.

  19. comelecAKO

    so now the comelec was immature? c’mon. like I said, some risks are acceptable. and unless you know what the factors were that were taken into consideration in making that determination, i don’t think it would be fair for you to characterize it as reckless. you can’t argue from generalities cvj. you know that. and just because you’re comfortable doing it a certain way, doesn’t make that the only right way.

    you’re talking oranges and lemons when you compare us with florida. in florida they use a mechanical system – they punch holes in cards. And that calls for people to manipulate a card puncher, for people to make sure that the chads are completely out, and for the ballots to be printed in such a way that all the holes are properly aligned to the names. that’s a whole lot of things you need to get right. what we proposed for people to do was to simply mark empty ovals on a ballot. people are not unfamiliar with this concept. people bet on lotto all the time, and many people already have experience with standardized testing. the problem publics were those who don’t have experience or exposure to those things. As to them, we had a voter education program where we would flood the country side with mock ballots and send out hundreds of people to educate everyone. Basically, all we were asking people to do was to do it correctly? plus, instead of the usual pens, we were issuing markers, so there was no possibility of substandard markings blamed on substandard marking instruments. there was no problem with the voter interface.

    We do not dismiss improper shading as usage error. on the contrary, in developing the system, we took it into consideration and addressed it squarely: by lowering sensitivities and ensuring standard marking with standard marking instruments.

    But, you are right that with automation put off for another three years, this is the time to re-think, re-design, and re-engineer! I’ll keep you posted so you can help us shoot holes in all the brilliant (yeah, right!) pre-conceptions we will be deluged with! Thanks, cvj.

  20. cvj

    Comelecako, thanks as well.

  21. MR. CITIZEN

    We can talk through kingdom come about ways to keep our votes safe from manipulations by those in power today. But I doubt whether these manipulators in our society will ever allow real democracy to exist in this country. They are afraid to lose power.

  22. cvj

    Comelecako, you may be happy to hear this – a result of an informal poll among the audience of dailykos.com in the USA.

    “If given the choice, 54 percent would choose optical-scan ballots (filling in an oval with a marker) as their preferred method of voting. Only 2 percent chose electronic voting machines.”

    Here’s the link: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/10/12/8043/9362

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