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By Anna Valmero / / 01/27/2010

MANILA, Philippines.- An official from the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) technology partner Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) announced Wednesday the successful field testing of the automation system to be used for the May elections in selected sites nationwide.

Smartmatic-TIM spokesman Gene Gregorio said the field tests were conducted between 7a.m. to 12 noon Wednesday, in 10 polling precincts and nine canvassing centers in Benguet, Cebu, South Cotabato, Pateros, Taguig and Naga City.

Gregorio highlighted that the field testing proved that voting results from the polling precincts can be transmitted successfully to multilevel canvassing centers using a combination of public telecommunication networks and mobile satellite technologies in just two minutes.

''While we are still awaiting all results to come in, majority of the reports that we have received from the field state that the end-to-end testing of the automation system has been successful, particularly the electronic transmission of the election returns or the votes from the polling precinct to the municipal, provincial and national canvassing centers,'' Gregorio told

The electronic transmission stage is crucial because it will be the determining factor in holding automated polls, since it eliminates the need for board of election inspectors to physically transport the counted ballots from the voting centers to the board of canvassers for tallying in the municipal, provincial and national levels.

Under the new system, results for the national positions are expected to be out in 48 hours, instead of the usual one or two months.

The spokesman also said it is impossible to hack the poll machines or change the results to be transmitted within the two minutes owing to several security layers.

Aside from the transmission, personnel from Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM also tested the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and canvassing hardware, including the basic configuration of the automation software to be used for running the hardware units, said Gregorio.

The official added that the final version of the automation software would be installed in the 82,200 PCOS machines after international software certification agency Systest Labs releases its full report on source code review by early February and certifies it as functional and operational for use in automating the May national and local elections.

Based on the full report of the field testing, the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM will ''introduce improvements on the system as deemed fit,'' added Gregorio.

During the joint congressional hearing on the automation preparations Wednesday, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said they will hold a second field testing to allay fears on automation even if the law only prescribes that a second field test should be done if the first one fails.

Since the arrival of machines on December, Comelec has been conducting laboratory tests for the machines, wherein they subject the poll machines to different stress factors like high temperature and humidity to simulate the unique environment of the polling precincts where the machines will be deployed on Election Day.

So far, Comelec commissioner and steering committee head for automation Gregorio Larrazabal said ''the laboratory tests are successful.''

Aside from the laboratory testing and at least two field tests, Comelec will also hold a mock elections in selected sites nationwide and a test for electronic transmission of voting results in key sites using a public telecommunications network or mobile satellite units.

The final testing and sealing of the machines are scheduled three days before election day, said Larrazabal.