Ecumenical labor group releases info-video for automated polls

EILER chief Joselito "Noy" Natividad says, workers don't believe that automated elections can completely eliminate poll fraud. (From left to right - Atty. Carlos Medina, Co-Convenor of Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE); EILER's chief, Joselito Natividad; and EU Ambassador to the Philippines H. E. Alistair MacDonald. Photo courtesy of Eiler, Inc.)

ANTIPOLO CITY, March 4, 2010—The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Inc., with the support from the European Union, has launched a info-video teaching the Filipino workers how to vote this coming May 10 elections using the automated electoral system (AES).

Called the “Five Easy Steps sa Pagboto sa AES,” the four minute and 37-second video provides the 34 million workers adequate information on how to cast their vote using the AES.

In a statement, EILER Executive Director Joselito Natividad said that the info-video is a part of the program under the Workers’ Electoral Watch (WE-Watch) project with the funding from the EU.

The said alliance is composed of more than 50 workers’ unions and federations representing key industries in the country such as telecommunications, banking, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and electronics.

“The primary goal of the alliance is to safeguard the 34 million workers’ vote,” Natividad said in a statement.

Also included the roster of conveners of WE-Watch was church-based labor institutions and other organizations that advance the workers’ rights and welfare.

The video is available on the WE-Watch website, http://www.we-watch.net/.

Meanwhile, WE-Watch and EILER have also set-up a 24-hour text hotline that voters can report incidence of fraudulence and other irregularities in the conduct of the polls: for SMART subscribers – 0929-3361581; for GLOBE – 0915-6701434; and for Sun Cellular – 0923-5320142.

AES does not guarantee fraud-free elections

On the other hand, Natividad expresses doubt about the credibility of elections even though it is already automated.

“We in the Philippine labor sector are not against the automation of this important tool of governance, nor are we traditionalists rejecting technological advancement in the country’s political institutions. What we are against is the precipitate manner with which the automated election system (AES) is being deployed, and the propagation of the falsehood that automation in itself reduces or even eliminates electoral fraud,” Natividad.

This is notwithstanding Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) assurance that the technology to be used in the national polls is “hack-free.”

Contrary to Comelec’s claims, computer expert Romeo C. Factolerin said, there is no such “hack-free” technology.

In an interview with CBCP News, he said that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) can be cracked or “hacked.”

“Hacking is simply re-programming or re-configuring a computer’s system to bend it the way the hacker wants it to be. In simple terms it is a way to make the computer program obey a certain command away from the facilitator’s original intention,” Factolerin said.

Hacking: an omen of a fraudulent or a failure of elections?

Retired Archbishop and expert on Canon Law, Rev. Oscar V. Cruz, D.D: "Hacking of government websites can be an omen of a failure of elections."

Last January, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz has warned the public about the possible failure of elections five government websites are already hacked. This, according to Cruz, is can be considered as “big bad omen of things to come about the forthcoming national automated elections.”

Factolerin seems to agree with the 75-year old prelate’s “premonition.”

“It may look like a co-incident, but it establishes a horrifying reminder that it can happen in the coming election. It is an undeniable disaster for the automated election if it truly materializes, however, the possibility of hacking rears two faces–from the side of those who just want to prove that they can re-program an otherwise impervious system and those who want to win the elections in any which way they want,” said Factolerin.

Factolerin explained that the simplest hacking method is the DDoS or the distributed denial of service can be done by any ordinary computer programming student back in the 80s and still pose a significant threat in today’s web 2.0 system.

IT expert and animator Rom Factolerin: "There is no such thing as hack-free technology."

“If the automated election procedure relies on a web based ballot counting and data collection, the hacker using DDoS can simply paralyzed the server, thus denying any access. Votes cannot pass through the main system, thereby cannot be counted. This “freezing” of server could take longer, hours, days, weeks depending on the hacker and the ability of the server to “unhack” itself,” Factolerin furthered.

“Manipulation of the election program and the re-configuration of the system could spell fraud, unless the hacker only wants to prove that he hacks just for the sake of his self-esteem. Otherwise, if the program or the system is compromised, the image that it suggests is clear—fraudulence. It is very hard in the part of the Comelec to prove that there is no cheating that transpired if in the first place their system had experience hacking, but of course we can expect they will not tell this to the public,” he added.

Factolerin urges the Comelec to further educate the public and ensure them that they can trust the AES. (The story is also published in CBCPNews.com)

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