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Sep 22nd
Home Columns Ike Señeres The COMELEC Should Go Back to the Basics
The COMELEC Should Go Back to the Basics PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Ike Señeres
Written by Ike Señeres   
Friday, 25 February 2011 09:21



By Ike Señeres                                         


The Bottom Line Is Data


T he Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is back in the news as two Commissioners retired and left two positions open. The word is out that the President wants to appoint a Commissioner with an Information Technology (IT) background. This development has opened new discussion about what really has to be done at the COMELEC computer wise, and what the new IT oriented Commissioner has to accomplish in his or her term


If you ask me, my answer would be very simple. I think the COMELEC should go back to the basics, and what could be more basic than putting the Voter’s List in good order? I would say that issuing Voter ID cards to all qualified citizens is also a basic concern, but experience tells me that an ID card is really nothing more than a print out of the data within a database, meaning to say that without data to back it up, it is not possible to produce reliable and accurate ID cards.


I was fortunate to be the chairman of the COMELEC Modernization Committee twice, at one time appointed by the Commission en banc, and at another time appointed jointly by the Commission en banc and the Senate. In both stints, I remember that the discussion always hovered around the issue of Voter’s Lists and ID cards. I also approved the Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) of the COMELEC at one time, and these were the two key issues too at that time.


Without a reliable Voter’s List, the COMELEC could not issue reliable Voter ID cards. Without these two working together, the Commission would have no legal and technical basis to issue official ballots to anyone. This is very basic, and nothing could be more basic than that. There are two sides to this issue. If there is no basis for issuance of a ballot, the election official on site could just deny anyone his right to vote. Conversely, if one is denied a ballot, he too would not have a basis to assert his rights.


Under normal circumstances, it would be reasonable to implement a NO ID, NO ENTRY policy in any place or event for security reasons. If only all voters would have their ID cards, this rule would be a very simple and easy rule to implement. Since not every voter has an ID card even up to now, this rule could not be implemented, thus making it difficult to control the security at the voting places. If this rule is implemented now, it would be tantamount to a denial of voting rights.


In the world of data management, it is normal and customary practice to subject the security and the reliability of the systems to the scrutiny of peers. This is often referred to as ethical hacking, but that is really an oxymoron because it is really just a form of authorized testing. To refer to this exercise as ethical hacking is about as wrong as the idea of rape with consent, obviously there is no such thing.


Good-Data Management Needed


G ood-data management is precisely what the COMELEC needs, because every single thing that the Commission does is related to data and data management. When I say data management, I mean the whole gamut from data collection to data protection, the latter also known as data security. In this field, redundancy is also a common practice, but it seems that the COMELEC is now lacking in this regard, or at least their data security practices are not known to the world of data management practitioners.


The casting of votes in an election is also a data related exercise, and presumably, the data collected as the votes are cast are secured in such a way that these are not altered or modified in any way. This is another part of the data process that has to be verified and validated by professional peers in order to remove suspicions of any form of wrongdoing.


In the past election, there was a lot of controversy about the ownership of the source code. This issue is really a no brainer, because the user of a software program could only own the source code if they buy the rights to the entire system, lock stock and barrel. In the case of the counting machines that were used in the last election, it is obvious that the COMELEC could not own the source codes, because the Commission only rented the machines and did not buy them.


In the world of computer technology, it is important to understand the proper use of technical terminologies, because the wrong understanding of words could lead to the wrong decisions. For instance, a counting machine is not the same as a voting machine. Taking this analogy further, automated counting is not the same as automated voting. It could be argued that a Toyota is the same as a Mack truck because they both could move from one place to another, but a Toyota is not designed to carry heavy loads that only a Mack truck could carry. In other words, a personal computer is not the same as an industrial grade voting machine. # # #


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Last Updated on Monday, 07 March 2011 16:50

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