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Sep 15th
Home Columns Ike Señeres Data Parity and Data Equality
Data Parity and Data Equality PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Ike Señeres
Written by Ike Señeres   
Monday, 07 June 2010 21:44


No Holds Barred (072)

By Ike Señeres


Data Parity and Data Equality


B elieve it or not, it actually happens in the Philippines that the laws passed either conflict with each other, or are incompatible when placed side by side. This is the case of the apparent conflict between the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA) and the Philippine Election Automation Law (PEAL), when it comes to the issue of data dominance or data parity, as the case may be.


But first, allow me to backtrack a little. At the time that the ECA was passed, hard copies ruled the day as the dominant data form that was admissible in court as evidence, and as the legal basis for day to day transactions. At that time, there was no recognition yet of the value of electronic data forms, so it became necessary to stipulate in the law that henceforth, there is going to be data parity or equality between the two types of data forms.


When the PEAL was subsequently passed, it made the apparent mistake of stipulating that the electronic data form was going to have dominance over the hard data form. This specific provision was apparently in conflict with a general provision in the ECA, stipulating that after the ECA was passed; all subsequent laws passed in the Philippines must be and should be in line with its provisions.


As the implementing agency of the PEAL, I was expecting the COMELEC to insist upon the dominance of the electronic data form. To my surprise, it was COMELEC Chairman Jose Melo himself who started quoting the provisions of the ECA, while referring to the resolution of issues pertaining to electronic signatures. Right there and then, I concluded that the issue of electronic data dominance was dead in the water, and from that time on, it would appear that data parity is here to stay as a state of being.


Ironically, the much ballyhooed “paperless society” actually never happened, as the electronic age produced more documents that had to be printed, as more people, more than ever wanted their own “hard copies” of the “soft copies” that were actually available online or in storage media.


Long before the election actually started, Chairman Melo had announced to the world that he was against a “hybrid” solution, meaning that he did not want to have manual counting alongside the optical counting. He said this at the time that he was fully confident that the automated system was “hack-free”, without bothering to say whether it was “trouble-free” or not.


As it turned out, the COMELEC was actually moving towards a hybrid situation, because the votes from overseas were in fact counted manually. As it also turned out, many votes that were cast locally also had to be counted manually, after the Precinct Count Optical Scanning (PCOS) machines turned out to be not trouble-free after all.


J ust to set the record straight, the past election was not really “automated” in a real sense. Real automation has to be “systemic”, meaning that the entire system has to be automated and not just certain parts of it. For the record, the voting system of the past election was actually still manual, because it used paper forms that had to be manually shaded.


Even the counting itself could not really be considered as automated, because the paper ballots had to be manually fed before these could be optically read. To call a spade a spade, the COMELEC actually used a system of “optical counting”; a low-end procedure that could hardly be called “automated voting”.


Following the rule of data parity, it could be said that the Election Returns (ERs) that were printed out from the PCOS and were manually signed by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) were actually valid and admissible, and were therefore acceptable as the legal basis for the computation of the Certificates of Canvass (COCs).


Many IT experts say that the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) will never die. This is a mainframe programming language that was developed in the 1950’s and the 1960’s but it is still being used today. Many think that the Disk Operating System (DOS) is dead, but it is actually alive, because the supposedly modern Windows operating system still sits on top of the archaic DOS. Paper will not die, it will co-exist with ether. # # #


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