Monday, July 6, 2009

Automation Problem on Philippine Elections

By Joe Espiritu

As this article is written, the Commission on Elections and the winning bidder of the automation project are still ironing out the problems on how the systems is to be installed. To think of it, the bidding had been conducted, the winning bidder had proven their capability of installing a running system. The system had undergone tests and after the tests had been completed, a member of the winning consortium decided the back out. The reason for backing out is that the other half wants the control of the project funds.

 We find the reason strange. Before they entered into the negotiation, the consortium, which is composed of the Total Information Management Corporation and the Smartmatic International Corporation decided to bid for the project as a single judicial entity. They won and was awarded the bid not as separate corporations but as a single bidder. When the project is to be finalized, the Total Information Management Corporation decided to back.  Legal fireworks is about to explode.

 Complete automation or computerization of an electoral process will need the function of two systems, the hardware set up and the software component. The hardware system is composed of machines which are responsible for data capture, verification, storage, retrieval, processing, transmission and reporting. In short, all the mechanical aspects of computerization are handled by the hardware component. The data capture, verification, storage, retrieval and processing may be localized, that means done in the voting precincts. Or it may be done in some centralized stations like municipalities and provincial capitols.

 The voting precinct would need networked computers with optical readers for data capture, central processing units or CPUs, for data checking, storage, retrieval and processing, visual display terminals or monitors for visual checking and modems for data transmission.. Voting precinct hardware is to be physically secure, unauthorized handling prohibited. Modems are to electronically transmit data through dedicated lines, identity of sending units identified and verified before transmission acceptance. All of these are the responsibility of Smartmatic.

 Since computers like all automated machines need operating instructions or programs, the software components of a computerized system in order that the system will properly function, this will have to be provided by software specialists. There will be programs to test the validity of inputted documents, rejecting ballots made out by voters not in the voters list in the precinct computer, rejecting votes with wrong or extra candidates, or those not passing the logical parameters or using invalid passwords, programs preventing attempts to alter operating instructions, flashing and sounding alarms when the computerized system security is breached. All these are supplied by the Total Information Management Corporation.

 This means, an automated system must be a function of both hardware and software components. A well designed system is difficult to break in even by talented hackers. Only the uninformed think that computerized networks can easily be penetrated. If their opinion is true, hackers could have easily robbed all Automatic Teller Machines or ATMs in the country by operating the keyboards of ATMs.

 The Comelec as client and Smartmatic - Total Information Management consortium as bidders must come to terms fast. The present set of Comelec officials has nothing to lose but prestige but the bidders might lose not only their shirts but their businesses as well since they will be blacklisted by the government in case the deal will not fall through. Even if they may escape blacklisting no one will ever do business with them jointly or individually..

Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) Deal

By Romy Teruel

All is well that ends well? It should be but not yet in the case of Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) deal.  While they have ironed out disagreements and vowed to deliver the automation machines for the 2010 elections, it is only the beginning of the whole process and not the end of it.  Therefore it cannot yet be described as an end ending well. 

Nevertheless hope is there again for poll reforms that will give us leaders who were really elected by the voters and not leaders who, although proclaimed as elected, carried with them charges of poll cheating if not manipulation of election results. 

For years we only dreamed of having election winners who were voted by the people without being accused of having cheated or manipulated election results. The bidding for the supply of poll automation machines was what everybody hoped would give them just that. When the award was made to Smartmatic-TIM, almost everybody heaved a sigh of relief.  But the last sigh of relief was cut short by the reported withdrawal of TIM from their partnership with Smartmatic for undisclosed differences. 

This sparked speculations about efforts to derail and sabotage the automation so that cheaters can continue to ply their trade during the next elections.  It also fuelled the possibility of no elections for lack of funds to revert to manual counting of votes.  Remember most of the funds was earmarked for the poll automation and a return to manual counting will need another act of Congress to appropriate funds for printing of ballots and other election paraphernalia.   

When things go awry, a lot of speculations come to mind that could further erode the processes and put to question the results.  Like how could a project estimated to cost P11.2 billion by Comelec itself be completed at a cost of P7.5 billion as was the bid of Smartmatic-TIM?  That's almost P4 billion short of the estimate.   

Two questions come to mind.  Did Comelec bloat its estimate to allow for kickback? Or did the winning bidder purposely underbid so that sub-standard supply that will allow room for manipulation of results despite automation can be delivered?  These speculations cannot be avoided considering our history of scams in government deals. 

We will never know for sure. What is important now is that the deal will push through after Smartmatic and TIM settled their differences within the deadline given by Comelec.  What the public can do now is be more vigilant to protect the only proof of true democracy – people freely electing and installing their leaders. 

If that is the last thing that we can do to preserve true democracy, then by all means let us do it.  Let us not allow CON-ASS a chance to change the Constitution by allowing poll automation to fail. 
Let us not allow the possibility of no election to materialize because the good people did nothing to prevent evil to triumph. Let everybody participate in ensuring that all is well that ends well.   

Nonito Donaire and Bernabe Concepcion in Pinoy Power 2

Promoter Bob Arum, a Hall of Famer, is showcasing Filipino boxers when Nonito Donaire and Bernabe Concepcion take on touted rivals on Aug. 15 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

The main event will see Donaire against Rafael Concepcion of Panama for the interim World Boxing Association (WBA) super-flyweight crown.  The event is dubbed "Pinoy Power 2".

Arum, whose promotional outfit Top Rank will stage the slambang show.
Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez said Filipino puncher-super-lightweight prospect Mark Jason Melligen of the Antonio L. Aldeguer Stable of Cebu will see action in the undercard.

Arum had described Melligen, formerly an amateur standout, as a "terrific fighter" following his smashing performance two weeks ago in Ensenada, Mexico.

Arum has had a taste of the Filipino boxers' furious fists with Manny Pacquiao as his flagship fighter but is likewise enthralled with the arrival of new blood in Donaire, Concepcion, Melligen and Brian Viloria.

Rising ALA Stable star Mark Jason Melligen has impressively won all his three fights in the United States this year.
Melligen deserved to be given due credit for that, but the Bacolod City-native punching dynamo should face the reality that he is yet to hurdle an acid test to prove his true value in the lucrative US boxing market.

And that would be against the Mexican power-hitter Michel "El Bravo" Rosales when they collide in the undercard of the interim WBA super flyweight championship bout between Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire and Panamian Rafael "El Torito" Concepcion on August 15 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While Melligen wields a shining credential he further spotlighted by planting a blackey on the comebacking former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather during a sparring session, Rosales poses as a danger zone in his road to glory.
Towering at 5-foot-11, the 26-year-old Rosales is a certified knockout artist having sent 21 of his 24 foes into the dreamland.
However, there is one thing that would be of Melligen's delight.  Rosales seems to be a reckless ring tiger as he suffered all his three defeats also vis stoppage.

Rosales absorbed his previous setback at the hands of Saul Alvarez via 10th round TKO last April 11 Gimnasio NiƱos Heroes in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico.  Two months later, Rosales bounced back with fire in his eyes, eking out a majority decision victory over Luis Fernando Uribe to snatch the WBC FECOMBOX light middleweight title.

The other factors that will likely confront the 23-year-old Melligen is that Rosales is four inches taller than him, bigger and heavier.
But in an earlier interview a day after his arrival from the US last week, Melligen, bold and daring as ever, said he doesn't care who is his next opponent so long as he has proper training and conditioning.  In fact, he is even willing to challenge Mayweather if opportunity permits.

Above all, Melligen also possesses sledgehammer fists having flattened 11 of his 15 victims, the latest was a stunning second round KO OF Fabian Luque two days ago at the Gimnasio Oscar "Tigre" Garcia in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
That too is something that should be a cause of worry for Rosales.

Milo Marathon in Cebu and Manila, Philippines

Over 40,000 participants are expected in the 33rd National Milo Marathon as the nationwide search for the country's top long-distance runners resumes today.

Elimination legs will simul-taneously hit Cebu City and Metro Manila.
Pat Goc Ong, the AVP for Milo sports, said he expects the legs to attract over 40,000 runners combined in Cebu and Manila.
The qualifying time for Cebu and the other provincial legs, which are run at a distance of 21 km, is one hour and 15 minutes for men and one hour and 35 minutes for women.

The Metro Manila elimination, on the other hand, is a full 42.195-kilometer marathon and will have a qualifying time of four hours for men and fours and 30 minutes for women.

The qualifiers will then advance to the 42-km national finals on Oct. 11 at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
Milo marathon national race organizer Rudy Boscocho announced that cut-off time for the 42-km qualifying run in Manila is five hours while cut-off time for the 21-km provincial qualifying race is two hours and thirty minutes.

Also scheduled on Sunday are the side events such as the 3-km kiddie run, 5-km fun run, 10-km race and the interschool cheerdance competition.  In Metro Manila, the 21-km half marathon has also been added.

A total cash purse of P240,000 is at stake in Cebu City while P590,000 shall be given away to the winners in Metro Manila, including P30,000 each to the top male and female 42K finisher.

There will also be an interschool team running competition and the biggest delegation competition in both legs.
The 33rd National Milo Marathon started with races held in Subic and Dipolog on February 8; Iligan and Batangas on February 15; and General Santos and Palawan on February 22.

After this Sunday's races, the country's biggest and longest running marathon held in partnership with Bayview Park Hotel-Manila and the Department of Tourism holds weekly events in Davao and Tarlac on July 12; Butuan and Santiago City on July 19; Cagayan de Oro and Laoag on July 26; Tacloban and San Fernando, La Union on August 2; Tagbilaran and Baguio on August 9; Roxas City and Dagupan on August 9; Roxas City and Dagupan on August 16; Iloilo and Legaspi on August 23; Bacolod and Naga on August 30; and Dumaguete and San Pablo on September 6.

Registration in Metro Manila ends on June 30.

Philippine Presidential Election: A Perspective

By Bingo P. Dejaresco III

Political scientists engaged for the 2010 presidential polls must take cognizance of four factors: (1) surveys (2) voter segmentation (3) imagery of candidates and (4) media coverage.

Surveys from Social Weather Station and the Pulse Asia are reliable - but at best they are just snapshots of political reality at a certain limited period of time. As we earlier said - one month in a presidential campaign can change history.

In January 2004, for instance, SWS survey placed GMA (28.7%) and FPJ (37.5%). A month later (February 2004), the Pulse Asia showed GMA (31.9%) breathing down the neck of FPJ (31.7%) when the issues of the latter's citizenship and illegitimate child took center stage. That close battle ensued until the May 2004 actual polling.

Surveys from these two credible entities are barometers to be heeded and plans adjusted to - they are not for sale in order to set trends.

On the other hand, voter segmentation is crucial in determining the direction of scant resources of candidates. For instance, the vocal and visible segment of the A-B-C market does not speak for the nation as they comprise only 18% of the voter's percentage. The E market - poorest segment - is another 18% of total but this is the voter bloc that is most easily swayed by money, threats and herding.

The largest remaining and most significant is the D Market - the upper poor - which is 60% of the market. This market segment, according to Senator Raul Roco's handlers, is made up of two kinds: the "struggling poor" and the "resigned poor". It is believed that the "struggling poor" can still be the object of successful "persuasion" or campaigning.

Bear in mind, likewise, that 60% of the age profile of the voters is comprised of people below 30 years old, of which 100% of the new voter registrants will fall under. Many progressive thinkers view this bloc as idealistic and open to reforms.

The third factor of "imagery" is very crucial as well. Pundits believed that Miriam Santiago's "dragon lady" image in 1992 nearly cost FVR the presidency (if not, some say, for the Sulo Hotel Operation). In 1998, the Erap "pro-poor" image won him 40% of the votes, the single biggest presidential vote percentage from 1986-2004. Erap's image beat the incumbent's candidate Jose de Venecia (blessed by so-called network) and the money of Danding Cojuangco.

Many political pundits still believe FPJ's "masa" image actually "won" but lost out to "Garci" in that 2004 elections.
The image-builders in the 2004 election had their hands full since it featured extremely popular political titans: GMA and FPJ.
 Cerge Remonde featured GMA as a "smart, intelligent and telegenic" multi-lingual pedigreed candidate who knows her economics. Rod Reyes of FPJ tried to downplay the latter's lack of education and experience in public office by presenting the movie actor as a "folk hero" - a non traditional politician who has picked his lessons from the downfall of his pal Erap.

Lito Banayo of Ping Lacson's camp tried very hard to sidetrack the Martial Law image of Lacson into one of an Iron Hand but to signify strong "political will" to make things happen. Yolanda Ong, on the other hand, packaged Raul Roco as an advocate rather than a pure candidate. The campaign used much of the "text brigade" and "internet campaign" long before American president-elect Obama converted it into the state of the art. They obviously targeted the ABC market segments (18%).

Finally, media coverage did matter. Either media were playing favorites in 2004 or their coverage merely reflected what was "good copy" and therefore attracted readers, listeners or viewers for newspapers, radio and television respectively. Let's take a look at a one month sample below (March 2004)

For both TV and print news headliners FPJ got the best coverage (105 articles-news coverage) followed closely by GMA (101); Lacson had (62) and Roco (54). Unerringly, the results of the 2004 election also resulted in almost the same order as above except that GMA "won" over FPJ.

But being written about in newspapers (Inquirer, Star and Bulletin) is not always good for candidates. All the four leading candidates got almost identical number of page one articles: Roco (25), FPJ (23), GMA (21) and Lacson (20).
However, independent observers recognized that 76 of these articles were slanted and 93 were judged neutral; 54 were negative articles and only 44 positive articles for the above candidates.

In that month, over 50% of the front page articles of the Inquirer, Star and Bulletin were political in nature or 173 of the 312 articles with Bulletin leading the ratio with 71 political articles of the 109 total; Inquirer 53 of 134 and Star 48 out of the 96.
Television, which is now considered the most powerful political medium, was also politically colored. In February 2004, the following had political stories in the news: ABS-CBN's TV Patrol (20.11%), Insider (40.27%); GMA's Saksi (34.21%) and Frontpage (22.19%)' Studio 23 (25.13%) and ANC's The World Tonight (41.9%).

Only the sinking of the Super Ferry in March (following month) slowed down the percentage coverage of politics in these TV stations.
These four factors are as crucial today going to the presidential polls in 2010 as they were in the year 2004. None of them have lost relative significance.

They are factors worth pondering even this early. - source: Bohol Chronicle