About two weeks ago, I attended a conference organized by the Information Systems Security Society of the Philippines (ISSSP). It was an illuminating event for me as IT security executives battled wits with election experts such as former Comelec (Commission on Elections) Chairman Christian Monsod.
Monsod, as usual, was very sharp in his comments regarding the issues currently confronting the poll body in its preparations for the country's first automated elections. Although he is part of the group pushing for a "parallel manual recount", Monsod said there's no point insisting on this if the Comelec is not keen on taking up the proposal.
He said the citizenry should instead focus their attention on the project itself and treat the electoral exercise as "a national endeavor". "[Implementing the poll automation] is a messy and time-consuming process but you have to be patient with the system," he said.
Another issue he discussed was the source code of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines, which some IT executives have questioned. Monsod said the source code appears to be clean and that the certification issued by U.S.-based Systest Labs seems to be valid.
While it is understandable if Comelec and project contractor Smartmatic commit "retail mistakes" in the conduct of the computerized polls, he said a "wholesale fraud" is absolutely unacceptable.
The ISSSP leadership, meanwhile, said the country is better off if industry stakeholders channel their energy on "ensuring the security and successful implementation of the country's first ever computerized national election".
The group said government and business leaders "lack a full understanding of how to remediate the threats of cybercomputing and, therefore, fall short in taking full advantage of the benefits that automation is supposed to bring".
ISSSP President Fred Torres commented that the country's political leaders and the media have "allowed the threat of failure of the automated election to stop people from moving forward and reaping the rewards of automation".
I agree. Instead on conjuring dreadful scenarios, our energy would be better spent if we just focus on things that could ensure a positive and successful automated election.
IT veteran Victor Silvino is back at IBM Philippines as the company's software chief, following the departure of Nic Jorge who previously held the post and recently moved to Microsoft Philippines. Silvino had served in the same position a few years ago before he left to head the local unit of a German systems integrator.