Comelec to open 2013 PCOS code for review

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – For the first time, local groups will see the code that runs the Philippines' ballot-counting machines, ending 3 years of apprehensions over the automated elections.

The US-based Dominion Voting Systems has agreed to release the source code of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for a review by local groups, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes Jr revealed on Monday, May 6.

Brillantes said this will end credibility issues over the PCOS. The source code is the subject of a petition filed by senatorial bet Richard Gordon before the Supreme Court, and a complaint filed by local watchdogs before the United Nations. (Watch more in the video below.)

Tumahimik na rin lahat ng mga nagsasabing walang source code, kung anu-anong sinasabi. Puwede ba, tumahimik na at magtulungan tayong lahat,” Brillantes said in an interview. (This should silence those who say there's no source code, who say many other things. Please, just shut up and let's help each other.)

Watchdogs earlier blasted the Comelec over the lack of a source code review by local groups. Critics see the local source code review as key to transparency. 

The Comelec, however, cited the source code review by the international, independent company SLI. The poll body said this meets the law's requirements. (Read: FAQs: Why worry about PCOS code?)

Dominion had prohibited the release of the PCOS source code for a local review. The company had done this because of a legal battle with the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic.

No more time

The completed source code review, however, will not make it in time for May 13.

Brillantes said the source code review “will have to be completed after elections already,” given that a good source code review, according to experts, takes months.

Poll watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch blasted the poll body over this. The group also questioned the timing of Brillantes' announcement – days after they filed a case against the Comelec before a UN committee.

It's too late..and take note that this came in after we filed case vs Comelec at UNHRC — AES Watch (@AESwatch_PH) May 6, 2013

@ rapplerdotcom Our IT experts have been repeating that it's too late. Full source code review will take 6-12 months @ paterno_ii — AES Watch (@AESwatch_PH) May 6, 2013

Brillantes, however, said he has been “continuously negotiating for the source code” for months. This, he said, is “the only reason why I have been very, very quiet.”

Ang hindi ko lang naiintindihan sa mga kaibigan natin sa labas, ang iingay nila, not knowing na 'yung ingay nila, maski papaano, naaapektuhan ang negosasyon ko,” Brillantes explained. (What I don't understand about our friends outside is that they're too noisy, not knowing that their noise, in a way, affects my negotiations.”

Brillantes said Dominion's representatives will soon arrive in the Philippines, while those from SLI have already arrived. Then, stakeholders – including poll watchdogs – will meet to formalize the deal in the Philippines. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at