|“MAP Insights” Column in BUSINESSWORLD – _31 May 2011
IT Expert vs. IT Peddlers
by Manuel A. Alcuaz, Jr.
New COMELEC Commissioner Gus Lagman has come under the guns of a bunch of columnists who question his lack of ardent support for full automation and criticisms of the Smartmatic PCOS.
Some of them claim that Gus Lagman may have a hidden agenda or is unaware of the many successes of Smartmatic.
Let us first try to distinguish between an IT expert and an IT peddler.
An IT expert is someone who is very knowledgeable about Why? IT should be used, What? can be used, and/or How? to do IT. One cannot expect a single person to know all the benefits of IT and the problems that IT can solve, or to be an expert in all technologies, or to be able to single-handedly know how to develop or run all types of systems.
There are many different jobs in the IT industry. An IT expert is, first of all, someone who knows what he does not know, acknowledges that, and, if necessary, looks for the answer or the expertise.
An IT peddler is someone who pushes IT because he is paid to do so. An IT peddler could be officially employed by an IT company to do sales and marketing work, but at the same time lacks IT expertise. Therefore, he or she pushes IT even when it is not appropriate.
Some IT peddlers may not be officially employed by IT firms but may receive secret payoff’s to promote a technology or a specific vendor.
Unfortunately, some IT peddlers are well known columnists who have the stature and media presence to mislead the public.
Let me now go into some of the accusations that have been hurled against Gus Lagman.
One columnist mentions various awards and contracts. Smartmatic has recently gotten for registration technology, such as the Frost & Sullivan Award, the Bolivian Voter Registration Award, and the Mexican National Registry Award. I wonder how he got this information. He does not seem to know about Smartmatic’s failures with voting machines.
Granting that Smartmatic may have good voter registration technology, you don’t have to be an IT expert to know registration machines and vote counting machines are different.
Some columnists claim that Gus Lagman is against the Smartmatic PCOS because his OES lost in the COMELEC bidding.
A number of things have to be clarified to the public and to columnists who don’t bother to get their facts straight.
First, Gus does not have a company selling OES. OES was a technology project that Gus Lagman did with the help of UP Computer Science Faculty and students, as well as volunteer IT professionals/experts to present an alternative technology for the automation of the 2010 elections.
Unfortunately, COMELEC was one track minded and wanted only the PCOS. In fact, it did not even consider the CCOS (Centralized Optical Scan), a more cost-effective technology that was successfully used in the previous ARMM election.
Manual Counting and Dagdag Bawas
Many people who don’t understand the vote counting and canvassing process equate manual counting at the precinct level with “dagdag bawas”.
They don’t understand that there are two levels of cheating:
(1) Retail cheating at the precinct level, and
(2) Wholesale cheating at the municipal and provincial canvassing.
It is hard to cheat at the national canvassing level except under Martial Law.
Cheating at the precinct level consists of mis-reading, mis-tallying, and mis-appreciation of ballots.
When there are watchers, these are difficult to do. However, when guns and goons take over a precinct, some candidates can get all the votes and others can have zero.
Wholesale cheating takes place in canvassing. Election returns from precincts can be changed very significantly. However, the manipulators have to do “dagdag bawas:” Add to their candidate and subtract from others. If one just adds votes for a candidate, the total number of votes and the number of registered voters will not tally and so the cheating will be detected.
It is interesting that, for the May 2010 elections, COMELEC paid Smartmatic P7.2 billion for PCOS machines and other services but did not budget for projectors in every Canvassing Center so that people could compare their copies of ERs with what was being canvassed!
Some columnists question Gus Lagman’s suggestion that for the ARMM elections, PCOS machines should not be used for counting at the precincts.
One columnist writes, “For an IT expert, Lagman’s proposal to revert to manual counting in the ARMM sounds off-key. As a computer expert, Lagman should be pushing for complete automation.”
Excuse me. This proposal of Gus is what most IT experts who know the facts would suggest. In the ARMM elections, there are only 3 positions to vote for, and most probably there would be about 10 candidates.
Manual counting should take less than an hour or two for 200 ballots!
Gus and other experts are for electronic transmission, computer canvassing and visual projection of canvassing.
In the end, Gus is a true IT expert, and some columnists have proven to be IT peddlers.
(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is President of Systems Sciences Consult, Inc. and member of the MAP National Issues Committee. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, please visit .)