POSTSCRIPT / October 29, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Check source code now, not after losing election

ACCREDITED political parties should seriously participate in the review of the source code that will be used in the voting-counting machines for the May 2016 national elections – or forever remain silent on that technical detail.

We were told that while the Commission on Elections has opened the source code for review by eight accredited groups, mostly political parties, no political party has been present at the De La Salle University site for the review this week.

It is not fair for candidates or representatives of accredited parties to refuse to participate in the review – and later assail the integrity of the source code or the entire process when they lose in the elections.

The source code, which is the kilometric instruction programmed into the machines, will be open for technical inspection for seven months. That should put to rest suspicion that the code is rigged or that it can be rigged to favor certain candidates.

If the source code, the master key to the computerized poll system, is found in the review to be on the level, any irregularity that may occur later could lie elsewhere. The review can help isolate problems.

A representative from Smartmatic-TIM, which supplied the voting-counting machines, is at the review site every day to assist whoever needs help or clarification on anything pertaining to the source code.

The code is written in a binary (two-digit) language using groups of numbers 1 and 0. Only the computer can read the code, but a human-readable version or translation can be produced for those who have the expertise and patience to examine it in regular English.

Smartmatic-TIM has given assurance that the source code is impenetrable, because it has encryptions on all levels and the encryption is unique for each unit. That claim can be challenged during the review.

Mandated by the Automated Election System law, the review is just one of the contentious aspects of Philippine elections, especially among quarters who believe that what actually happened in 2010 and 2013 was massive automated fraud with pre-programmed results.

Clearing the source code before the start of the election process will help minimize other problems from voting, to counting, to results transmission, to canvassing, to the proclamation of the winners.

All major political parties have been accredited by the Comelec to review the source code: the Liberal Party (LP), the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Lakas-CMD. Smaller groups such as Unang Sigaw, a political party in Nueva Ecija, and former Senator Richard Gordon’s Bagong Bayan Party were also accredited.

The Comelec also accredited such citizens’ groups as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG).

US challenges China’s landgrabbing

TERRITORIAL expansionism of China in international waters around it is similar in style to the land-grabbing rampant in the Philippines, the only difference being in the scale of the takeover.

And the solution to both regional and local problem is the same: Stop it, act on it just as the interloper starts gobbling up targeted areas and before it cements its physical possession.

That was exactly what the United States, now pivoting majority of its naval force to the Pacific, did last Tuesday when it sent a warship, the USS Lassen, to sail past one of China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Sending the USS Lassen to sail close to the China-claimed Subi reef in the Spratlys group– where there is a thriving Filipino community on one of the major islands — was deliberate and announced in advance.

The maneuver dramatized the US position that man-made islands cannot be considered sovereign territory. Since 2013, China has aggressively reclaimed areas around scattered reefs and atolls and built wharves and airstrips on them.

The US insists on freedom of navigation and overflight in international lanes, especially vital routes in the South China Sea where some 30 percent of global trade passes.

Philippine officials led by President Noynoy Aquino applauded the US sail-past. When Filipino fishermen were driven out of their traditional fishing ground in Panatag shoal off Zambales, Malacañang had no choice but to merely file a diplomatic protest with Beijing.

The Philippines being a military pygmy compared to the Red Dragon cannot do a similar naval maneuver to assert sovereignty over its islets and shoals being taken over by China.

The reclamation trick of China is similar to the practice of bully Filipinos of fencing off and claiming wide strips of river banks that appear during the dry season – and then adding them to their reconstituted land titles.

Abacan River in Angeles City is an example of this style of land-grabbing by prominent families with riverside property.

Another example is the mouth of the once mighty Pampanga River. It is now clogged with fishponds owned by influential businessmen and politicians who had occupied much of the river until it is now hardly passable except by small watercraft.

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MANILA HOTEL Notes: The Kapihan sa Manila Hotel of our departed colleague Neal H.Cruz has been resumed at the Manila Hotel, this time anchored by Jullie Yap Daza with Ariel Ayala as co-host. It is held at 9 a.m. every Monday under the auspices of the Samahang Plaridel of Filipino journalists.

Tonight at 9 p.m., at the Manila Hotel’s Tap Room: spokesperson and writer Margaux Salcedo will be singing Ella Fitzgerald’s hits together with former Presidential Management Staff chief and now Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila president Lenny de Jesus on guitar and flute.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 29, 2015)

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