Comelec’s PCOS-OMR system rejects public counting, enhances wholesale cheating

Nelson Celis, TMT
November 25, 2020
Posted by CenPEG, Nov. 25, 2020

AS early as May 7, 2009, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) had already made a study/paper about the title of this article. The 19-page paper started with “Contrary to a recent newspaper full-page ad with an Obama-ish heading ‘Yes, we can!’ and posturing that ‘automated elections’ will ‘modernize democracy,’ the full automation of the May 10, 2010 national and local polls will most likely lead to wholesale electronic cheating; thus, disenfranchising millions of voters. Equally worse is that it will make poll watching extremely difficult; thus, rendering it moot and academic. The technology can be used by the powers-that-be for the electoral defeat of any legitimate opposition candidate or party. Serious political scenarios will ensue from what may turn out to be a failed electoral exercise.

“As the key instrument in the country’s election modernization, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), among other entities, should be held to account for a possible failure of elections or, at the very least, widespread election protests. There are strong indications that the Comelec is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to administer the May 10, 2010 elections, and its preparations for the installation of election technology appear to disregard some key provisions of Republic Act (RA) 69 and recommendations of its own advisory council.

“At this stage, the Filipino people, particularly the electorate, poll watch groups, political parties, and other multi-sectoral and sectoral groups should be vigilant in monitoring the Comelec’s pre-election preparations and in defending the people’s democratic rights, part of which is the right to vote and to have an open, transparent, credible and participatory elections.”

On page 7, it reads, “Reports with regard to automated elections or electronic voting point to the fact that the disadvantages far outweigh the system’s claimed advantages. Accounts of errors, deficiencies and hidden malicious human intervention have been mounting, prompting countries that had adopted this technology to go slow or to abandon it altogether. In Germany, the Supreme Court ruled electronic voting is unconstitutional for its lack of transparency. Japan — the world’s leading IT country — still uses a manual system backed by an independent post-election audit. Among the key concerns in these countries is the fact that automated election or electronic voting/counting allows no transparency to the whole electoral process. The German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) ruled that the use of electronic voting was unconstitutional and noted that, under the constitution, elections are required to be public in nature and ‘that all essential steps of an election are subject to the possibility of public scrutiny unless other constitutional interests justify an exception…The use of voting machines which electronically record the voters’ votes and electronically ascertain the election result only meets the constitutional requirements if the essential steps of the voting and of the ascertainment of the result can be examined reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject…The very wide-reaching effect of possible errors of the voting machines or of deliberate electoral fraud make special precautions necessary in order to safeguard the principle of the public nature of elections.’ The ruling by the GFCC became instrumental in Germany’s reverting from automated to manual election.”

On page 16 it states, “Given the high political stakes in the coming elections and the present administration’s determined bid to cause the broad legitimate opposition and its allies to obsolescence, it is imperative that there be an alternative system that incorporates the requirements of an open, transparent, credible, and voter-friendly automated election process. In the legal and political context, an open and transparent automated election system responds to the requirements of the people’s right of suffrage and of access to public information as well as the progressive, non-traditional electoral struggle. We should acknowledge Filipino ingenuity which is at par with the rest of the ICT international community.’
“We should be open to studying automated election systems as proposed by the Filipino ICT community or other Filipino groups that have made studies on automated elections or electronic voting. We should be open to all alternative transparent technologies whether they were developed by neophytes or experts, mass organizations or professional organizations, individuals or groups.”

On page 19, the study concludes, “The precinct count optical scan-optical mark reader (PCOS-OMR) technology chosen by the Comelec goes against the basic democratic principle of “secret voting and public counting.” This is because the OMR system makes the counting, canvassing and consolidation of election results hidden from the public eye and, hence, lacks any transparency as the Constitution and RA 9369 require. The proclamation of winners will be done in 2-3 days making it extremely impossible to file any election protest which is expected to be widespread – and poll watching almost futile. x x x”

A year after, in November 2010, a CenPEG delegation to the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Bangkok met with Andreas Voßkuhle, a German legal scholar who served as the president of the GFCC from 2010 until 2020. He explained that the 2008 court’s decision stressed the need for transparency in the electoral process without the need for specialist knowledge and this in effect ended Germany’s short-lived use of electronic voting systems.

The 2009 policy study and the 2010 meeting with Voßkuhle only point to the pending Senate Bill 7 (SBN 7) , introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto (2019), or the “Hybrid Election Act” — “Act providing for the conduct of the hybrid national, local and ARMM elections, through manual voting and counting at the precinct level, and automated transmission and canvassing, and for other purposes,” and other related hybrid election bills in the House of Representatives such as House Bill 00483 (Deloso-Montalla, Cheryl P.), HB00 125 (Fernandez, Dan S.), HB 01784 (Espino, Jumel Anthony I.), HB 02265 (Alvarez, Pantaleon D.), HB 03896 (Villafuerte, Lis Raymund ‘Lray’Jr. F.), and HB 04643 (Sarmiento, Edgar S.). The committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation (CERPP) led by Sen. María Imelda Josefa Marcos supports SBN 7 and has been consistently deliberating this Senate bill since last year until this pandemic period through virtual meetings. On the other hand, the House bills are still pending at the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

The 2009 CenPEG study was further backed up by its comprehensive 2010 report entitled “The CenPEG REPORT: On the May 2010 Automated Elections in the Philippines” and details of which may be viewed at: On the other hand, the 11-year-old study/paper may be viewed at These studies were further elaborated in more than 300 articles in this “Let’s Face IT!” column and these are all available at

Questions: is the 2009 study of CenPEG futuristic that it could predict what could have happened in the last four national and local elections? Will the Congress under President Duterte’s administration pass these pending bills for our democracy…and for the Filipino people?

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