With less than a few days to go before the Philippines will hold its first ever fully automated national elections, it seems like we're in for a really bumpy ride. Serious, embarrassing, and idiotic technical glitches were discovered while testing the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used to count votes for the polls.

Smartmatic Corp., a Venezuelan-led multinational corporation that handles the automated election process (from design to deployment of equipments), blamed the problems on the machines' flash memory cards, which they said contained the wrong instructions. Perhaps they should change their name to Not-so-Smartmatic or Dumbmatic.

A total of 76,000 CF memory cards that were already deployed on different designated areas across the country have to be recalled and formatted. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said that the cards will be tested, and if fixed, will be delivered before the May 10 elections (God help us).

During the field-testing of several counting machines, it was uncovered that the votes were mistakenly counted in favor of the ruling party presidential candidate (intentional or not?). Other errors were also found while counting the local votes. So I guess there is something fishy about the "wrong instructions" excuse.

The PCOS blunder has resulted on a widespread call to postpone the elections since it's pretty obvious that everything is still a mess while time is running out. There's also a plea to go back to manual counting and just ditch the defective and questionable automated system. The trust has already been lost.

As for Linux being under the spotlight while we prepare for this chaos bound national polls, I saw this photo from the front page of the Philippines' leading newspaper:

The photo caption reads: "A Smartmatic worker inserts one of 76,000 CF cards recalled for glitches and formatted in its warehouse in Laguna." He is clearly using Ubuntu Linux so I wondered if the system used by Smartmatic Inc. is entirely based on Linux and other Free and Open Source software.

I once wished for an Open Source and Linux-based automated voting system in order to help minimize election fraud, but since our corrupt politicians will do whatever they can to cheat and win, I'm losing hope. Before I'll go, I would like to quote this comment from our reader:

"All electronic systems do is add another layer of potential fraud, which is harder to spot than before. Also it's far harder to identify who has committed the fraud than when paper votes are used. What's the point? Linux would do best to stay well clear - why get tarred with that brush eh?"

Please share with us your thoughts via comment.

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