Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Barber's Ace--a "cutting" not "counting" machine

A news report says about 61 information technology experts were involved in vote-shaving and vote rigging operations. These "army" of IT experts were led by hundreds of "koala bears" who offered their services to numerous politicians for as much as 50 million pesos, if you believe Surigao governor Ace Barbers.

Barbers is no stranger to dagdag-bawas. His father, former senator Robert Barbers was once victimized by the old manual counting system. So, Ace Barbers knows what he's talking about. It seems that he was the second member of the family victimized by the scheme. What's different, this time its high-tech.

When Barbers first appeared before the Congressional inquiry on the May 10, 2010 elections, what he presented as pieces of evidence are compelling proof that there were indeed, instances of electoral fraud in the last elections.

Losing gubernatorial candidate Grace Padaca of Isabela in an interview by Tina Monsod-Palma in Talkback last night, said it right---honest candidates have no match against politicians with money. How can they fight toe-to-toe with candidates awash with money? With vote-buying activities rampant and being now, validated by automation, how then can alternative candidates win against trapos?

It seems that automation is now the validating machine for vote-buying.

So, if you have 50 million in your pocket, you can actually buy your position. If you have a billion, then, you can become a Senator or even president, if you believe a "koala bear" named "Robin".

Money have been a decisive factor in Philippine electoral contests even before Padaca was born. Now, it has become sophisticated, with a machine telling you that it's okey to pay off private survey firms and give money to voters, since the machine would validate mind conditioning tactics anyway.

And how will you prove fraud when the election returns do not bear digital signatures? The Comelec says it is un-necessary since the machines generate its own digital signatures.

It would be a tedious task examining each and every election return from about 350,000 clustered precincts. Imagine the agony of Comelec and Congress looking at each return and calling every BEI member before it to explain what happened.

And how about the very prospect of opening all 76,000 PCOS machines and looking into each and every ballot cast and then validating it with the election returns? And then, looking at each and every Certificates of Canvass, and then trying to reconcile them.

Who would have that patience, especially trapos?

Koala boy was right---this electronic Garci is hard to prove. That's why koala bears had a field day, offering their services to the highest bidder. And its the fault of our leaders. They flunked their math courses. They only know two figures--30 and 40%.

Now, we can't be faulted right? Comelec and Smartmatic conditioned our minds to accept that this time the system would be faster. And we expect it to be like that.

We forgot that in democratic processes like these, we don't need speed. We need the highest quality of counting. Instead of speed, we need accuracy.

Accuracy, it seems, depends on human factors. The machine would count correctly given the right instructions feeded into it. What we failed to grasp is this---humans operate machines. Yes, 1 plus 1 is 2 but it can be 1 plus 1 equals 1000. It's just a matter of programming.

And when you "institute" this kind of system in a country peopled by hundreds of self-proclaimed programmers wearing either a "red" or "black" hat, that's a challenge.

A nincoompoop by the name of Alan Peter Cayetano even challenged Filipino I.T. experts that he'll give a million pesos to whoever will be able to hack the system. Now that koala bear appeared out of nowhere and many more koalas are expected to muck and confuse us, what then Mr. Cayetano? Where are their millions?

Cayetano, himself, is fighting and fending off numerous contenders against his wife Lani's win as mayor of Taguig. The Cayetanos had carved a fiefdom out of the smallest city in the Metro. And they don't seem to mind what happens in the national elections, except to say that Pia won by the clearest margins. Or, so they think?

With accusations flying all over, with questions on how accurate counting machines are, we can very well expect to revert to that old Casio calculator. At least, this time, allow Comelec to buy those calculators that generate receipts. That is even more reliable than 80,000 pesos "counting" machines. O, by the way, make that "cutting" machine.