Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Phil. Computer Society's Prexy Toti Casino says analyst Ramon Casiple is wrong about RMA having to do with AES "security.' Casino stresses that more than anything, security has to do with the digital signature. Italian magazine writer and Vatican watcher Sandro Magister asserts that after Benedict’s resignation, “youth will no longer be an obstacle to being elected pope.” Meaning, Cardinal Tagle could be it.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple was quoted in the newspaper Tribune today as asserting that “I believe that Comelec should now focus on the security components of the automated elections, and one of them is the random manual audit. It must play a very significant role for the elections to be credible.”

Casiple was referring to the provision in the Poll Automation Law, RA 9369, which provides for running a manual audit of poll results in select precincts across the country, at least one clustered precinct per congressional district, in order to verify the accuracy of the automated count.

But Philippine Computer Society president Edmundo “Toti” Casino disputes Casiple’s assertion altogether. “Wrong,” says Casino, the “random manual audit has NOTHING to do with security.  It only verifies accuracy of the automated counting, period.”


PCS prexy Casino asserts that the security component to the automated election system (AES) that is required by law and imperative to implement--- but which is still being ignored or misconstrued---is the digital signature. He points out that “to this day Comelec opts to use the machine-embedded security key which is only a part, but not sufficient enough to authenticate or certify that transmitted data results from origin or source to the target destination are true and correct.  (Sec. 19, 20 & 25 of RA 9369).

Indeed IT experts nearly all insist that it’s the digital signature of the automated election machine that’s the key to security of the election results, because this signature is peculiar to the machine and to no other. But the problem is that in the 2010 elections the Comelec chose to discard this security requirement in the PCOS---thus opening the door to what appears to be large-scale fraud in the election results and putting the entire election results of 2010 in question.

Alarmingly, to this day the poll body appears to again prepare to discard the digital signature.


But here’s something else that’s screwy: last Tuesday afternoon a newspaper ran a report that Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes had said that if he doesn't get the approval of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the use of the "binary code" (i.e., instructions that are 'machine-readable' in lieu of the “human-readable” source code) Comelec would have no choice but to go manual voting in the May elections.

It will be recalled that in various forums Brillantes has admitted that he hadn’t as yet obtained approval for use of the source code from its real owner, Dominion Voting Systems, which has a running legal battle with Smartmatic, the supplier of  the PCOS machines. He said, however, that he continues to negotiate with Dominion.

That assertion about a possible manual vote was made by Brillantes last Tuesday, and in fact this blogger commented that he has now willingly opened the door to manual, sans his bluff-threat of “if you critics don’t stop we’ll go manual” last week.


But then, suddenly last Wednesday, a tweet by Brillantes said that SLI Global Solutions (formerly the Denver-based Systest Labsl) the third-party international firm that was supposed to review the source code, has already reviewed it---and favorably. As I noted, SLI had refused to conduct this review for a long time as Dominion had refused to give it the go-signal. But suddenly, overnight, there it was, and favorable daw.
 Could a review of the AES be an overnight job? My suspicion---shared by many---is that when Brillantes "opened the door" to manual voting and counting, a lot of influential people became nervous that the country could get the voting right in May. So there might have been a lot of arm-twisting, seemingly overnight (!) and voila---SLI suddenly gave its favorable review.  


Quite suddenly, also just a day earlier than the SLI go-signal on the source code, Brillantes also began saying “no to manual” again, saying there’s no more time for this option. This sudden posture, after earlier opening the door to manual, appeared to have been buttressed by the fact that the Comelec’s Technical Evaluation Committee  (TEC) came out---also quite suddenly---to say that per its judgment everything's ok with the AES.
Brillantes ecstatically says that with the TEC's favorable appraisal of the AES it's now all systems go for May, and---are you prepared for this?---no more  need for another mock elections, despite the earlier first trial run that was studded with "glitches" major and minor.

And guess what was the basis of the TEC’s sudden appraisal that the AES is ok? None other than SLI’s favorable review of the source code, which came out so suddenly!  

Hope you folks out there are not as confused as I am, for from this corner some things just don't sit well together.


Manila Archbishop, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

A regular reader of this blog, Ms. Araceli Lorayes, was so kind as to send me a copy of the most interesting and knowledgeable article by 70-year old  Italian writer Sandro Magister from Rome, dated today and titled “Who Will Take Up the Keys of Peter” about the ramifications of a recent decision that shook the world,“without precedent in history”---the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

Veteran Vatican-watcher Magister, who writes for L'espresso magazine, took time to review the whole landscape of 117 cardinals who would be closeting themselves in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican premises in the middle of March to elect Benedict’s successor. Magister reviewed possible candidates---the 'papabili'---going from one continent to another. 

Most interesting is that he devoted a couple of paragraphs to our own Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Let me quote that portion of his article day:

“If from Latin America and Africa, where indeed the majority of the world's Catholics live, there do not seem to emerge prominent personalities capable of attracting votes, the same is not true of Asia.

“On this continent, soon to become the new axis of the world, the Catholic Church also is wagering its future. In the Philippines, which is the only nation in Asia where Catholics are in the majority, there shines a young and cultured cardinal, archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, the focus of growing attention.

“As a theologian and Church historian, Tagle was one of the authors of the monumental history of Vatican Council II published by the progressive ‘school of Bologna.’ But as a pastor, he has demonstrated a balance of vision and a doctrinal correctness that Benedict XVI himself has highly appreciated. Especially striking is the style with which the bishop acts, living simply and mingling among the humblest people, with a great passion for mission and for charity.

One of his limitations could be the fact that he is 56, one year younger than the age at which pope (Karol) Wojtyla was elected. But here the novelty of Benedict XVI's resignation again comes into play. After this action of his, youth will no longer be an obstacle to being elected pope.”

Mukha ba talagang may pag-asa si Cardinal Tagle?

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