Poll automation at the Supreme Court – oral arguments on July 29, 2009

What follows is a summary of sorts of how the orals went before the Supreme Court on the petition to avoid the Smartmatic-TIM contract with Comelec.  For background, see my earlier post.

On pilot testing, one Justice thought that it was the intention of the law to have pilot testing.  He reportedly said “… you are a fool if you computerize overnight without pilot-testing, without any parallel lines and without full simulation.”

On the stipulations in the Smartmatic-TIM contract with Comelec, the Chief Justice expressed an opinion that the Filipino partner (TIM) should prevail over Smartmatic in the decision-making of the joint venture.  Harry Roque, counsel for the Petitioner, pointed out that the “control” stipulations in the contract were, however, a circumvention of the Constitutional provision (that requires Filipino control of corporations undertaking business imbued with public interest).

One Justice had considered that it ought to be the Comelec that should have control over the electoral process.  The discussion later focused on a stipulation in the Smartmatic-TIM contract that apparently gave Smartmatic-TIM control over the security of passwords and public/private keys, as pointed out by Roque.  The Justice reportedly asked, “Did they (Smartmatic) take oath to protect our Constitution?”

See the reports by the Daily Tribune,  the Inquirer, and Newsbreak.  See also Rom’s report.  She says only Harry Roque opened with “May it please the Court.”  These reports covered the morning arguments.

UPDATE:   The orals reportedly went on till almost midnight on July 29.  The afternoon and evening focused on “reliability” of the machine count.   See July 31 report at the Inquirer.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from the Inquirer report:

Senior Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing asked the Comelec’s lawyer to submit an explanation on the allegations of failure and even fraud against the Smartmatic’s election systems used in Venezuela and parts of the United States,

Quisumbing cited an article by the “Real Clear Politics” publication submitted by the ITFP that showed the role of Smartmatic’s automated election system in the recall referendum won by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2004.

He said that an exit poll conducted by the New York-based Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates survey firm showed Chavez losing 59 percent to 41 percent. Official tallies using Smartmatic machines, however, showed Chavez won, 58 percent to 42.”

A mischief-minded observer would be tempted to coin a new word.  Instead of dagdag-bawas for the past elections, we may have baligtaran for future elections.  God and Comelec forbid!

And here’s another report, by an IT expert observing the proceedings.  According to this report, the “heroes” were:  Chief Justice Puno, Justices Carpio and Quisumbing, and Harry Roque.  I believe the heroes also include the silent citizenry who can just sit and wait and watch in the hope that poll automation will be neither a White Elephant nor a Trojan Horse. Just my opini0n, of course.


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