Friday, December 11, 2009

Starbucks' Hot Teas (Dec 12 09)

I am a coffee person, but whenever I have an upset stomach I prefer hot tea instead. Green tea at Sofitel is nice but expensive, and Sofitel is so far away. We can not always have the nice things when we want them.

Starbucks serves very nice and very affordable hot teas, and there is always a Starbucks nearby. Today I had tall Earl Grey, which Starbucks Banawe served with two packets of D'Arbo honey, collected by honeybees from Austrian flowers. I am starting to develop a liking for honeyed hot tea, since I started drinking Starbucks honeyed Earl Grey several months back.

The nice thing about honeyed hot tea is that it is easy to prepare at home. You do not even have to use Earl Grey. One of my graduate students gave me a box of tea from Nepal, and Nepalese tea works just as well. I am sure that some local tea variety would taste just fine, with local honey.

Here's to hot tea and good health!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009



Questions Prepared by Pablo Manalastas
Fellow, Center for People Empowerment in Governance
December 1-3, 2009

SEC 1. Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) ...

In all cases, the Election Officer shall ensure that at least one (1) member of the BEI shall be an information technology-capable person as certified by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

QUESTION: Where will COMELEC/DOST get more than 80,000 IT capable persons? Will they be paid higher than the other members of the BEI?

SEC 5. Temporary vacancies in the BEI - If, at the time of the meeting of the BEI, any member is absent or a vacancy exists, the members present shall call upon a substitute from the list of public school teachers submitted by the DepEd to perform the duties of the absent member. If none is available, the members present shall appoint any qualified non-partisan registered voter of the precinct to temporarily fill said vacancy until the absent member appears. In case there are two members present, they shall act jointly.

QUESTION: What if the absent member is the IT capable person, and no qualified substitute can be found? Can the BEI continue its work without the IT capable person?

SEC 8. Minutes of voting and counting of votes (Minutes). - The BEI shall enter in the Minutes (A11), the act or data therein required as they occur or become available during voting, counting, and transmission of votes

QUESTION: What details must be placed in the Minutes? Some details are specified elsewhere in this document (GI), but are these details the only ones that need to be placed in the Minutes. Should there not be a document that gives ALL the details that must appear in the Minutes.

SEC. 10. Powers and functions of the BEf. - The BEI shall have the following powers and functions:

a) Conduct the voting in the polling place, electronically count the votes, print the election returns and transmit electronically the election results to the server for the City/Municipal Board of Canvassers, for dominant majority party, dominant minority party, accredited citizens' arm and KBP, and to the central server through the use of the PCOS machine;

QUESTION: Should the correct wording be: "Conduct the voting in the polling place, power on the PCOS machine and enable it to electronically count the votes, print the election returns and transmit electronically the election results to the server for the City/Municipal Board of Canvassers, for dominant majority party, dominant minority party, accredited citizens' arm and KBP, and to the central server".

SEC 10 (c) Maintain order within the polling place and its premises; keep access thereto open and unobstructed; and enforce obedience to its lawful orders. It shall prohibit the use of cellular phones and camera by the voters. If any person refuses to obey the lawful orders of the BEI or conducts himself in a disorderly manner in its presence or within its hearing and thereby interrupts or disturbs its proceedings, the BEI may issue an order in writing directing any peace officer to take said person into custody until the adjournment of the meeting, but such order shall not be executed as to prevent said person from voting. A copy of such written order (Annex *A') shall be attached to the Minutes;

QUESTION: Why prohibit the use of cellular phones and cameras by the voters? Almost all voters have cellular phones with cameras, so it is impractical to prevent 48 million voters from bringing their cellular phones to the precincts. What about the media and watchers from the political parties? Can't watchers use cellular phones and cameras?

SEC. 14. Honoraria of the BEI. - The chairman and members of the BEI shall each receive an honorarium of one thousand pesos (P1,000.00) per day but not to exceed three thousand pesos (P3,000.00). In addition, they shall be entitled to service credits for each day of service (Day before the elections, Election day and Day after Elections. Support Staff shall receive five hundred pesos (P 500.00) per day but not to exceed one thousand five hundred pesos (P1,500.00).

QUESTION: Will the BEI get honoraria on the days of training, and on the day of testing three days before elections? Will the BEI be in charge of watching the PCOS machines and the ballot boxes after testing until election day, and will they get paid for watching them?

SEC. 17. Rights and duties of watchers (of political parties) -

c) Take photographs of the proceedings and incidents, if any, during the voting, counting of votes, as well as of the generated election returns and ballot boxes;

QUESTION: So is this an exception to taking photographs by voters? Can watchers also use sound recorders? or video-sound recorders?

SEC. 17. d) File a protest against any irregularity or violation of law which they believe may have been committed by the BEI or by any of its members or by any person;

e) Obtain from the BEI a certificate as to the filing of such protest and the resolution thereof;

QUESTION: Where is the list of irregularities or violations of law (AES law) that the watchers can use as basis for protest? If the BEI helps a voter feed his ballot to the PCOS, is that a violation of law? If the BEI feeds the ballot instead of allowing the voter to feed the ballot himself, is that a violation of law?

SEC. 17. f) Be furnished, upon request, with a certificate of votes cast for the candidates, duly signed and thumb marked by the chairman and all members of the BEI.

QUESTION: Will this certificate be generated by the PCOS machine, or will the BEI manually copy this certificate from the print out of the precinct election return made by the PCOS machine? What if the BEI makes mistakes copying from the print out, which is a very likely possibility? Why not just allow the watchers to copy the CF card (back up made by the PCOS machine) using the watchers' own CF card readers?

SEC. 17. The watchers representing the dominant majority and dominant minority pafties fielding candidates shall, if available, affix their signatures and thumbmarks in the election returns.

QUESTION: Will they also digitally sign the internal copy of the precinct election return, which is the basis of canvassing at the higher levels? Who will provide them with CA-certified signing keys (private-public key pair)? Is not digital signing by BEI and watchers in accordance with the spirit and substance of RA-9369?

SEC. 18. Election forms, documents and supplies,

QUESTION: Where are the 50 pieces of felt-tip pens that the voters will use to mark their choices on the ballot? Where are the envelopes or pen holders for holding these felt-tip pens? I read the entire list, and did not see any mention of felt-tip pens.

SEC. 18. Election forms, documents and supplies,

A35 Certificate of Challenge or Protest and Decision of the BEI, 10 pcs
A39 Oath of Voter Challenqe for Illeqal Acts, 10 pcs
A40 Oath of Identification of Challenqed Voter, 10 pcs

QUESTION: Can the public see samples of these forms?

SEC. 21. Voting hours. - The casting of votes shall start at seven o'clock in the morning and shall end at six o'clock in the evening of election day.

If at six o'clock there are still voters within thirty (30) meters in front of the polling place who have not yet cast their votes, voting shall continue but only to allow said voters to cast their votes without interruption.

QUESTION: If the voters are queued up in front of the polling place waiting to feed their accomplished ballots into the PCOS machine, but some voters in the queue are standing in queue but beyond the 30 meters limit, will these voters be allowed to cast their votes?

SEC. 22. Place of voting, - Voters shall cast their votes in the polling place designated by the Commission. The Poster Indicating Precinct Number (A3) shall be prominently posted near or at the door of the polling place.

QUESTION: Will voters be assigned to precincts in the same school or basketball court or polling center where they were assigned to in the previous years? Do voters have to transfer to a different address to look for the new aggregated precinct assignments?

SEC. 24. Challenge against ittegal voters, - Any voter or watcher may challenge any person offering to vote for:
a) Not being registered;
b) Using the name of another; or
c) Suffering from an existing disqualification.
In such case, the BEI shall satisfy itself as to whether or not the ground for the challenge is true by requiring proof of registration, identity or qualification. The BEI shall identify the voter through his photograph, fingerprint, or specimen signatures in the VRR or EDCVL. In the absence of any of the above-mentioned proof of identity, any member of the BEI may identify under oath a voter, and such act shall be reflected in the Minutes.

QUESTION: Will the BEI be given training to match voter fingerprint with the fingerprint on record? Does this not require expert training? Or will they be provided fingerprint matching computers to help them do a computerized matching of fingerprints, instead?

SEC. 27. Rules to be obserued during the voting. - During the voting, the BEI shall see to it that:
a) Voters shall vote in the order of their arrival in the polling place;

QUESTION: What does the term "voters shall vote in the order of their arrival" mean exactly? Does this mean they will be given a ballot and allowed to accomplish their ballot in the order of arrival, and then after successfully filling out their ballots, they will be allowed to queue up to feed their ballots into the PCOS machine in the order that they finish accomplishing their ballots? Or does this mean that they will be allowed to queue to feed their accomplished ballots to the PCOS machine in the order of arrival?

SEC. 27. c) No person carrying any firearm or any other deadly weapon, except those expressly authorized by the Commission, shall enter the polling place;

QUESTION: Are pointed metallic objects that are not allowed when checking into local and international airports part of the list of deadly weapons? Is a three-inch Swiss army knife a deadly weapon. Are nail clippers, or small scissors, or small twissors considered deadly weapons?

SEC. 27. e) The ballot box shall remain locked during voting.

QUESTION: What if the PCOS machine jams or otherwise malfunctions, so that computerized elections can not continue, will the ballot box be opened so that voters can deposit their ballots into the open ballot box, in preparation for manual counting? How will computer-less manual counting be done?

SEC. 28. Voter Verifiability of His Choices (Not in the General Instructions).

QUESTION: Will the voter be allowed to verify how the PCOS machine appreciated his ballot? Will the PCOS machine show on the LCD touch screen or print on the paper-tape printout a listing of the candidates which the PCOS interpreted as his vote marks (50% or greater shading)? Will the PCOS machine give the voter the choice to agree or disagree with the PCOS appreciation of his vote marks on the ballot?

SEC. 28. Persons allowed inside the polling place. - Only the following persons shall be allowed inside the polling place:

e) Voters casting their votes;
f) Voters waiting for their turn to cast their vote;

QUESTION: Voters cast their votes in several steps: (1) BEI examines their voters list and on finding the voter's name, does the usual recording of the voter and hands the ballot and felt-tip pen to the voter, (2) Voter goes to secrecy desk to accomplish his ballot (this takes the longest time), (3) Voter queues up to feed his ballot into the PCOS machine.

Will the voter be inside the polling place during all these three steps?

SEC. 28. (Continued) However, the BEI may, by a majority vote, if it deems necessary, order in writing the detail of a policeman or any peace officer for its protection or for the protection of the election documents and paraphernalia. Such order shall be entered in the Minutes. Said policeman or peace officer shall stay outside the polling place near enough to be easily called by the BEI at anytime. In no case shall the said policeman or peace officer hold any conversation with any voter or disturb or prevent or in any manner obstruct the free access of the voters to the polling place.

QUESTION: How will the BEI give the written order to the policeman, when the BEI can not leave their post, and the policemen are not allowed to stay within 50 meters of the polling place? Will the BEI have the mobile numbers of the Police Department? or of individual policemen? Will the policeman, so ordered to give protection, be given a seat outside the door of the precinct, from which location he can religiously perform his duty to watch the voting and secure the peace? Exactly what actions can the policeman do? Will all police officers be required to read these General Instructions so that they are aware of the limits of their powers?

SEC. 30. Preparation of ballots for illiterate and person with
disability/disabled voters.

No person may assist an illiterate or person with disability/disabled voter more than three (3) times, except the members of the BEI.

QUESTION: How do you count the number of times an assistor helps a voter with disability, or am I misreading this provision? Does this provision mean "no assistor may help more than three disabled persons"?

SEC. 33. Testing and Sealing of PCOS - At least three (3) days before the May 10, 2010 National and Local Elections, after due notice by the EO to all parties concerned, the BEI shall meet at the polling place to test and seal the PCOS to be used on election day,

QUESTION: What if, during the testing, the BEI discover that the wrong PCOS machine has been delivered to the precinct? Is there a way for the BEI to determine if the PCOS computer is the correct one for the precinct?

SEC. 33. Testing and Sealing of PCOS - using the following guidelines:

8. The BEI shall compare the results of the manually-prepared ER with that of the machine-generated ER.

10. If the results of both ERs are not the same, the BEI shall determine the cause of the discrepancy and undertake the necessary measures to rectify the same.

QUESTION: Are the BEIs given training to determine the cause of the discrepancy and undertake the necessary measures to rectify the same? Does this not require technical expertise which the BEI might not yet have?

SEC. 33. (Continued)
11.The BEI shall then:
a. Seal the following parts of the PCOS (etc)
b. Lock and seal the ballot box;
c. Wrap the PCOS with shrink wrap; and
d. Allow the public to secure the polling places where the counting machines are installed.

QUESTION: Is the public the correct entity to secure the polling places where the counting machines are installed? Will the PCOS machine and ballot box be bolted to the floor or bolted to some permanent immovable fixture in the room/precinct? What if someone steals the PCOS machine and ballot box? Will the BEI be responsible? Will COMELEC pay the BEI to be responsible? Is the army or police the correct entity to secure the polling places where the counting machines are installed?

SEC. 34. Preliminaries to the voting -

2) Count the ballots manually, enter in the Minutes the number of ballots; and the fact that the package of ballots and the book of voters were shown to the public with the seals intact.

QUESTIONS: (1) What if the BEI notice that the wrong ballots were delivered to his/her precinct? The BEI will see the ballots only on election day itself, so can not check beforehand if the correct ballots were delivered to his precinct. (2) What if the ballots are the correct one for the precinct, but the number of ballots is less than the number of voters in the precinct? What if the number of ballots is more than the number of voters?

SEC. 34. 3) Remove the shrink wrap cover of the PCOS and show that the seals of the memory slot, transmission port and printer cover are intact. Record in the Minutes such fact and thereafter break the seal of the printer cover. The transmission port and memory card slot shall remain sealed during the voting.

QUESTION: What if any of the seals is broken? Will the BEI ask for a new PCOS machine, and redo the testing done three days earlier, using the new PCOS machine?

SEC 34. 8) The IT-capable member of the BEI (Operator) shall select "START" from the Main Menu. The geographic assignment (province, city/municipality, barangay, polling center and cluster precinct) of the PCOS will then be displayed on the screen. The Operator shall press the *INITIALITE VOTE COUNTERS" option of the PCOS,

QUESTION: What if the any of the geographical assignment of the PCOS is wrong, indicating that the PCOS machine was switched during storage? Will the BEI ask for a new PCOS machine, test it, and use it for the day?

SEC. 35. Manner of obtaining ballots. - The voter shall approach the support staff in-charge of the precinct, give his name, address, together with the other data concerning his person

The support staff shall verify if the name of the voter is in the PCVL. If the name of the voter is in the PCVL, his identity shall then be established through his photograph or specimen signatures in the Voter's Registration Record, unless he is identified under oath by any member of the BEI.

QUESTION: WHat if the voter has a valid registration as proven by his voter's ID, but his name is not in the PCVL? Will the voter be disenfranchised?

SEC. 36. Manner of voting. Voting shall be conducted in the following manner:

a) The voter shall, using a ballot secrecy folder and the marking pen provided by the COMELEC, fill his ballot by shading completely the oval beside the names of the candidates of his choice.


(1) Recently, the COMELEC announced that it will allow 50% shading as indication of a vote. Since the voter is not a computer, he can not really tell if his shading is 50% or more, since he is just using his naked eye, and for him, what might be 50% may actually be only 47-49% shading for the computer. The same reasong holds if the COMELEC requires 100% full shade. I suggest that if COMELEC decides to use 50% shading, that any shading greater than 40% be considered as 50% or more shading. The 40% may actually not be enough, but that is better than requiring exactly 50% or more.

(2) If the voter discovers while filling up his ballot that he overvoted for the position of senator, or provincial board, or municipal council, or for any other position, why can't he use a dry corrector tape to cover one of his shadings, or maybe cut out one of his ovals, in order to reduce the number of votes to the correct number.

SEC. 37. Rejected ballots procedure - Ballots may be rejected by the PCOS during the scanning. In the event of rejected ballot, the PCOS shall deposit the ballot into the rejected ballot cnmpartment of the ballot box. The voter shall not be issued with a replacement ballot.

QUESTION: Is it possible for a duly registered voter, voting in his assigned precinct, and using a ballot issued by the authorized BEI, is it possible for such registered voter to have his ballot rejected as invalid? Is the invalid ballot algorithm of the PCOS machine tested to be 100% foolproof? What assurance does the voter have that he will not be disenfranchised because of a legitimate ballot appreciated as invalid ballot?

SEC. 39. Counting of ballots and transmission of results; Procedure,

a) At the end of voting and before the start of counting of votes, the procedure of validating the ibutton security key and PINs stated in Section 32, no.4 herein shall be performed.

QUESTION: There is no Section 32 no. 4 in this document (GI).

QUESTION: Preparatory to transmission of the internal copy of the precinct election return (ER) to the municipal CCS computer and to the national COMELEC CCS computer, the BEI is required by law (RA-9369) to digitally sign the said internal copy of the precinct ER. From Smartmatic's Financial Proposal to COMELEC, it is evident that Smartmatic will generate all the private-public key pairs (signing keys) to be used by all BEI for digital signing of all the ERs. These signing keys will be issued to the BEI by Smartmatic on election day itself, and will be issued to the BEI by position and not to the BEI by name. That is, whoever reports as BEI chairman of Precinct 0559A of Mayamot, Antipolo, will be issued the signing keys of the chairman. The standard for CA-certified public keys (X.509 standard) is to issue the signing keys to named persons and not to positions. The question is: since the BEI will be using signing keys that belong to Smartmatic, does signing the ER with these keys constitute digital signing by Smartmatic and not by the BEI personnel? Is this not, therefore, a violation of law?

SEC. 39. (Continued) Before opening the "Close Voting" option in the main menu, the operator shall remove the seal in the transmission port of the PCOS to connect the transmission cable (cellular modem) into the transmission port.

QUESTION: Since only one cellular modem will be used by all PCOS machines in the polling center, before the BEI can attach the cellular modem to his PCOS machine, he has to wait for the BEI of the PCOS machine which is assigned to use the cellular modem first, he has to wait for this BEI to finish transmitting first, before he can take possession of the modem for use in his precinct. (1) Is the order of use of the one cellular modem by all PCOS machines in the polling place determined at random? (2) What if there is failure of transmission because of lack of cellular signal, as happens during times of peak usage? (3) How long must the BEI wait before he can declare a failure of transmission?

SEC. 41. Shutting Down of the PCOS. - After printing of all reports and transmission of precinct results to all destinations, the following steps shall be undeftaken:
a) In the main menu/ the Operator shall press the SHUTDOWN option;
b) ...
c) ...
d) The PCOS shall automatically shutdown.

QUESTION: When will the back up CF card be made? Will a back up be made? Can the watchers copy this back up CF card using card readers that they themselves provide?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My CE-160 Class in Ateneo (Nov 19 09)

This is my CE-160 class in Ateneo for the second semester of school year 2009-2010. CE-160 is Automata Theory with Compiler Design for computer engineering students. I have exactly nine students, and this is probably the smallest class that I have ever taught in 32 years. Most of them are either BS Applied Physics or Applied Chemistry, with major in Applied Computational Science. These are nine of the brightest students on campus, because you do not get into any of our allied engineering programs unless you are smart.

My daughter used to tell me this joke about engineering schools. She says that engineering is Marlboro Country -- all you find here are men and horses. This picture shows that Ateneo CE-160 is not Marlboro Country. On the contrary, when I'm teaching this class, I get the feeling that God gave me these good-looking young men and women to teach, in order to inspire me to teach, so that I can inspire them to learn.

God bless these children, and may they all get grades of A!!!

My CE-160 Class in Ateneo (Nov 19 09)

This is my CE-160 class in Ateneo for the second semester of school year 2009-2010. CE-160 is Automata Theory with Compiler Design for computer engineering students. I have exactly nine students, and this is probably the smallest class that I have ever taught in 32 years. Most of them are either BS Applied Physics or Applied Chemistry, with major in Applied Computational Science. These are nine of the brightest students on campus, because you do not get into any of our allied engineering programs unless you are smart.

My daughter used to tell me this joke about engineering schools. She says that engineering is Marlboro Country -- all you find here are men and horses. This picture shows that Ateneo CE-160 is not Marlboro Country. On the contrary, when I'm teaching this class, I get the feeling that God gave me these good-looking young men and women to teach, in order to inspire me to teach, so that I can inspire them to learn.

God bless these children, and may they all get grades of A!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas Spirit in U.P. Computer Science (Nov 19 09)

A few days ago, an electrician put up a Christmas Tree of electric light bulbs in front of the U.P.Alumni Engineers Centennial Hall that houses the Department of Computer Science and Engineering Library II. The tree is so simple yet so elegant in its simple beauty. It quickly became popular among students, and in the late afternoons, in the dying hours of daylight, when the darkness of night try to overcome the brightness of day, we see student groups taking their pictures in front of the tree.

But this photo opportunity is a challenging one. The automatic exposure mechanisms of most digital cameras would defeat the darkening effect that you want to put in your picture, in order to show the beauty of the lighted tree. The Canon 450D on auto-exposure setting recommends 1/8 second at f/4.0. I went to manual and took the shoot at 1/10 second at f/5.6, and I got the desired effect of highlighting the tree in front of a slightly darker building. This is the magic of modern digital photography!

Ateneo to Remember (Nov 19 09)

I joined Ateneo de Manila in 1977 (or 1979?) as soon as I got my M.S. in mathematics. At that time, the college complex included Xavier Hall (Admin, Registrar), Kostka Hall (English, Humanities), Berchmans Hall (Mathematics and Management Engineering), Gonzaga Hall (Biology, Physics), Schmidt Hall (Chemistry), PIPAC Building (Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry), Belarmine Hall (Psychology, European Languages), and the old Rizal Library (as yet without the extension building).

The new buildings came later: Colayco Hall (now MV Pangilinan Hall), Faura Hall, Dela Costa Hall, Social Sciences Building, Rizal Library Extension, Science Education Complex (A, B, C), PLDT Convergent Technologies Center, John Gokongwei School of Management, Mateo Ricci Hall, Church of the Gesu, and the First Pacific Hall housing the new Rizal Library.

Faura Hall was built at about the time when I got my PhD in Mathematics. I remember a year when an intensity seven earthquake was shaking Faura Hall up-and-down, instead of the usual sideways shaking motion of normal earthquakes. Except for superficial cracks in non-load-bearing parts, Faura is essentially undamaged, thanks to the reliable construction techniques of that time. At the time of the quake, Faura was housing Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics.

Today, I'm very proud that Ateneo constructed three important buildings, monuments to Ateneo's dedication to academic excellence.

The First Pacific Hall that houses the new Rizal Library is probably the biggest single library building in the entire country. The Library houses the main library's collection of books, periodicals, Internet access stations, etc.

The Manny V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership houses the student organizations. It is the most beautiful student center in any Filipino university today.

The Mateo Ricci Hall is a student study hall. There are individual study tables, group study rooms, a coffee shop, outlets for student laptops, wifi hotspots, etc. I believe that it is the only one of its kind in our country. The building is named after the Jesuit mathematician Mateo Ricci, and is a testament to Ateneo's dedication to academic excellence.

So if you are thinking of a university which will give you a good Jesuit education that emphasizes academic excellence, maybe Ateneo de Manila is the school for you.

Friday, November 06, 2009

KDE Founder and Smartmatic: Comparison

On November 6, 2009, in Germany, KDE founder Matthias Ellrich received the decoration German Federal Cross of Merit for his contributions to free software. KDE is one of the earliest graphical desktop user environments (GUI) for Linux and other open source operating systems, and is one of the most powerful and popular GUIs. In Germany, they give highest honors to people who open source their computer programs.

In contrast, in the Philippines, COMELEC will pay computer packaging and marketing firm Smartmatic the amount of PHP7.2-PHP11.4 billion for supplying election hardware and software with source code that no Filipino programmer will ever see, and that Smartmatic and COMELEC consistently refuses to submit to source code review as required by law. In the Philippines we reward companies who break the law.

That is one difference between Germany and the Philippines.

Go figure that out!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

sha1sum as Program Integrity Verifier for the PCOS and CCS Pograms (Nov 05 09)

I am a Linux user. Linux is the best operating system for techie people. It is so good an operating system that even the Smartmatic PCOS PROGRAM runs on uClinux, and the Smartmatic CCS program runs on SuSE Linux. The computers that we should trust to run our national and local elections run on Linux!

Linux comes in several flavors, called distributions. A distribution consists of the Linux operating system kernel, together with a selection of utilities that, together with the kernel, makes a complete usable operating system. My favorite Linux distributions are Ubuntu (a derivative of Debian) and Fedora (from which RedHat is derived). The trouble with any Linux distribution is that Linux and the utilities are updated (source code improvements are made) on a regular basis, and the distributions are also updated to catch up with source code improvements. As a result of these improvements, a new version of Fedora, version 12, is coming in a few days, even before I could get familiar with the great features of version 11. So I have decided to change my Fedora distribution to CentOS, an enterprise Linux distribution that is based on RedHat, one that does not get updated as frequently as Fedora. We say that CentOS is built upon a reasonably stable source code base.

I decided to download the CentOS version 5.4 installer DVD from the Argonne National Laboratories mirror at the URL:

The download took a few hours, since the DVD is about 3.9GB in size. To make sure that there were no errors in downloading, I also downloaded the sha1 hash/checksum file:

This sha1sum.txt file contains the sha1 hash values of the CD/DVD files that you can download from Argonne. The specific sha1 hash value that I am interested in is the line in that file that reads:

d2b36d3f017b2684ac920fab87aaf741bba16ca8  CentOS-5.4-i386-bin-DVD.iso

Now I need to make sure that the DVD that I downloaded does not contain any errors, that I downloaded a correct copy of the CentOS installation DVD. In order to check the correctness of the downloaded DVD (verify the integrity of my download), I just run the "sha1sum" program as follows:

sha1sum CentOS-5.4-i386-bin-DVD.iso

After some wait, the sha1sum program prints out the sha1 hash value of the DVD as follows:

d2b36d3f017b2684ac920fab87aaf741bba16ca8 CentOS-5.4-i386-bin-DVD.iso

Comparing with the sha1 hash value from the file sha1sum.txt, I am able to confirm that my DVD installer is correct and is an authentic copy of the original CentOS installer from Argonne. Now I am happy that I can install CentOS on my laptop.

How does this integrity verifier work for our election programs: PCOS and CCS? This is my suggestion, which COMELEC may or may not implement. After all this is just a suggestion. After the election programs that will run on the PCOS and CCS computers have been source-code reviewed and approved by the Filipino IT community, and after successful testing by SysTest Labs, in front of representatives from all political parties, SysTest Labs will compute the sha1 hash values of the PCOS and CCS programs, using the Linux sha1sum program as illustrated earlier. These two hash values will be printed out and given to all watchers and BEI and BOC personnel. Then on election day, to verify that the programs that have been approved are the ones running on the PCOS and CCS computers, the BEI and BOC personnel will just run the sha1sum program on the PCOS and CCS election programs, respectively. If the sha1sum program prints out a sha1 hash value that is equal to the sha1 hash value of the approved programs given out by SysTest Labs, then the PCOS and CCS programs will be accepted as authentic, since they pass the integrity verifier.

With a program integrity verifier like this, confidence in automated elections will be enhanced, and people will start to trust COMELEC.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Making of Champions (Nov 02 09)

The world's best collegiate computer programmers are usually decided in February or April of each year in the World Finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). In February 1-6, 2010, the World Finals will be held in snow-covered city of Harbin, China, at the Harbin Engineering University. To qualify to join the prestigious World Finals, a team of three college students currently enrolled in a university (not exceeding five years residence from time of entrance to university) must train under a faculty coach, and come out on top of one of the regional programming contests. In 2009 the Asian regional contests were (will be) held in 15 universities in Tokyo, Hsinchu, Dhaka, Manila, Gwalior-Kanpur, Shanghai, Amritapuri, Harbin, Hefei, Tehran, Wuhan, Ningbo, Phuket, Seoul, and Jakarta, The world's best collegiate programmers usually come from Eastern Europe (Russia) and Asia (China).

On Friday, October 23, 2009, at the Asia-Manila regional programming contest of the ACM-ICPC at Ateneo de Manila University, 55 collegiate programming teams from Hongkong, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, met and competed for the Asia-Manila regional championship. Ten problems were given, to be solved by each team of three programmers in five hours, using one computer shared by the three team members. The team that solves the most problems in the least time becomes regional champions. The problems were varied, including convex hull computation, composition of polynomials, taxicab distance, expressing a number as a sum of consecutive integers, partial fractions, fitting a quadratic, and classifying typhoons. The contest started late at 10:00 AM and was ended at 3:00 PM. The top six universities were:

1. UP Diliman (regional champions)
2. Ho Chi Min City University of Science
3. National University of Singapore
4. Hongkong University of Science and Technology
5. University of Hongkong
6. Ateneo de Manila University

The champion team from UP Diliman, named "Mga SOGO ni E.T." , consisted of team members Marte Raphael Soliza, Kevin Charles Atienza, and John Eddie Ayson. Their faculty coaches are Dr. Fidel Nemenzo and Mr. Eric "E.T." Tambasacan.

The champion UPD team will join the World Finals in 2010 in Harbin, China. This is only the third time that a Filipino team will be joining the World Finals. Earlier in 2005, a team from Ateneo de Manila University joined the World Finals in Shanghai, China, and in 2006 another team from Ateneo de Manila University joined the World Finals in San Antonio, Texas.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Karen Continues Piano Repair (Oct 30 09)

My daughter Karen, in the process of cleaning our Yamaha upright piano after it was immersed in Ondoy floodwater, is learning many new things about how the piano works. For example. she learned what each felt damper does and there are many of these felt dampers, what each pedal does and how the pedals differ between a grand piano and an upright piano. She has also learned that the correct material to use to glue wood to wood and felt to wood is Elmer's Carpenter's Glue. She learned how to remove and clean each hammer, and how to remove and clean each key. She numbered each component that did not have a number, so that she can return them to their original positions. She learned that the same diluted bleach solution that they use as anti-bacterial in the MBB lab at UP can be used as anti-fungal for the Yamaha piano.

She also learned the compact economical Japanese design that does not compromise quality -- how the Japanese designers diagonally crossed the long strings over the short ones to conserve space without compromising string length -- without compromising sound quality. She also learned the the Japanese used a synthetic ivory substitute for the keys, called "ivorite", which is actually smoother and does not chip as easily. She concluded that the Yamaha is the best value for money upright piano that one can buy in today's market. Of course, the overpriced Steinway is still the world's best grand piano, but the Yamaha is not so far behind in quality, if not in price.

So Karen is learning to do a decent job of cleaning our Yamaha. She does not intend to make this her vocation, since she is already too busy with her MBB wet-lab job, programming in C for plasmid 5-tuple binding amino-acids, playing the electronic keyboard, and learning the violin.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Practial Voter's Guide (Oct 25 09)

Practical Voters' Guide to Election 2010

1. Verify your voter registration status at the COMELEC office in the town/city where you reside. And you should do this before the deadline on October 31, 2009.

a. If you are already registered and you voted in the last 2007(?) national elections then you are probably still in the voters' list. But even then, you should check that your name has not been accidentally removed. You can also check your new precinct number assignment. You can get your new precinct number, even if the actual address of that precinct number is still unknown.

b. If you are already registered, but did not vote in the two most recent national elections (2004 and 2007), then you are probably not in the voters' list anymore. You should go to the COMELEC office of the town/city where you currently reside and re-register there. Bring two picture IDs issued by the government (SSS ID, GSIS ID, Taxpayer ID, passport, etc) or issued by your employer or school, a proof of date of birth (birth certificate), and a proof of address (a recent Meralco bill, or mobile phone bill).

c. If you are a new voter who has never registered before, then you must register for the first time. Proceed as in step (b) above.

2. One day before election day, go to the school where your precinct is located. Remember that one aggregated precinct has anywhere from 400-1000 voters with an average of 600 voters. The voters' lists will be posted outside the door of the precinct (classroom). Looking for your name in the list, even if you know your precinct number, might take a while, so you should do this before actual election day. If you do not find your name in the voters' list in all the precincts of the polling center (school), you should call the COMELEC emergency number (please paste telephone number here).

3. On actual election day, go to your assigned precinct early. Do not wait for the last hour (5:00 pm - 6:00 pm), because if you do, you probably will miss your chance to vote. Sayang naman ang boto niyo. Bring with you the following:

a. Your voter's ID or if you do not yet have an ID, your copy of your voter's registration form.

b. A felt-tip pen (medium point). Any brand will do. Do not bring ball pen or pencil. The precinct will have a supply of 50 felt-tip pens to be shared by 400-1000 voters. After voting, you might want to donate your felt-tip pen to the precinct, because the 50 might not be enough.

c. A white corrector tape (dry version). The COMELEC and Smartmatic do not want the voter to make changes in their ballot using white corrector tape (dry version), because the correction might still be fresh and sticky when you feed your ballot into the PCOS machine, causing paper jam, and preventing subsequent voters from casting their votes. If you bring a dry corrector tape, you will have to make corrections at your own risk.

4. How to vote:

a. Proceed to the table where the BEI (Board of Election Inspectors) are seated, show them your voter's ID or voter's copy of the registration form.

b. The BEI will check if your name is on their list, and if so, will give you your official ballot. The ballot will be 20 inches to less than 30 inches long, so you must handle the ballot carefully to prevent accidental tearing. They will also give you a felt-tip pen which you will use for filling out your ballot.

c. Upon receiving your ballot and pen, go to one of the secrecy booths (actually this will be a student chair with a little desk for writing, which will be provided with a 8.5 inch x 13 inch folder for "cover", so that the next voter can not see your choices).

d. To vote for a candidate, shade the oval next to the candidate's name with the felt-tip pen. Make sure that the oval is completely shaded with no white left, and that the shading does not go out of the oval. Do not over-vote, that is, vote for only one president, one vice-president, twelve senators, etc.

e. Before going to the PCOS computer to cast your vote, review your work to make sure that ovals are completely shaded with no shading outside the oval. Also make sure there are no accidental stray marks on the bar code area of the ballot or anywhere else, as these stray marks could invalidate your ballot. If you find that you overvoted for a given position (say you selected more than 12 senators), and if you decide to use your dry corrector tape to cover your extra choice, remember that you will do this at your own risk.

f. After reviewing your ballot, and if you are already satisfied with your choices, go the PCOS computer to cast your vote. There might be a queue, so you have to take your proper place in the queue. Filipinos know how to respect the rights of others, so let us not jump queue. There is no special queue for senior citizens, so they just have to queue up like all the others.

g. When it is your turn to feed your ballot into the PCOS machine, remember that there is a proper orientation for feeding the ballot. The ballot has two edges, the 8.5 inch short edge, and the 20-30 inch long edge. You must insert the 8.5 inch short edge first. It does not matter which of the two short edges (top or bottom) is inserted first, and it does not matter which face is up (the face containing the national candidates or the face containing the local candidates). The PCOS computer can read any orientation as long as the 8.5 inch top or bottom is inserted first.

h. The PCOS machine will finish reading and interpreting your ballot in about 30 seconds. Do not leave yet, wait until the little LCD display to the right of the PCOS computer says that your ballot has been successfully read. If he PCOS computer does not show you on the LCD display a list of candidates that you actually voted for, go to the BEI and register your complaint in writing. Beforehand, you might want to prepare the following statement and sign it, and have the BEI sign that he/she received your complaint:

I would like to formally register my complaint with COMELEC, through its BEI staff of precinct no. ______, municipality of _________, that the PCOS computer did not show me on the LCD screen, or in printed form, or in any other manner, the actual list of candidates that I voted for in my ballot, as required by RA-9369 Section 7 (Section 6 Minimum System Capabilities) Item (n), that states:

Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice;

Voter's Name _______________________ Voter's ID No. __________

Complaint received by: ________________________________ (BEI)
Date:_______ Time: _______

Make two copies and sign both. One copy goes to COMELEC, and the other will be your receipt.

i. That is all there is to computerized voting. After successfully completing the eight steps (a)-(h), do like my wife says. Pray that the PCOS computer has not been internally rigged to cheat for the favorites or COMELEC and Smartmatic. CenPEG, the NASSA-CBCP, and other cause-oriented groups and NGOs, who have been labeled as fear-mongerers, do not have the tools to do external hacking via the network. If the PCOS and REIS computers have been internally rigged or externally hacked, it will be because of people "inside", not people "outside".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boutin's Election Questions (Oct 19 09)

Here are my answers to questions submitted by Mr. Matthew Boutin, a student of Ateneo:

-In your August 4 Filipino Voices blog entry entitled "Election 2010: Public Counting & Code Review" you note that the PCOS units will not reveal to the voter how it read their ballot because of COMELEC imposed time constraints, thus violating the Omnibus Election Code. You also suggest that issues involving source code review in a controlled environment interfere with the voters right to know. Do you you consider there issues alone worthy of putting a halt to the upcoming automation, issues to be resolved, or some other level of seriousness?

The sentiment of the Filipino public, I believe, is that everyone wants computerized elections to succeed. I also personally like computerized elections to succeed. I believe, though, that COMELEC should seriously rethink its stand on NOT implementing the "voter verifiability of his choices" feature of the PCOS. I also believe that there are some required features that the PCOS should have which it does not have and which only source code review will reveal. I believe that COMELEC must allow source code review NOW, while there is still time for review, so that the public can see the conformance or non-conformance of the PCOS to RA-9369 and the COMELEC Terms of Reference (ToR). I do not believe, though, that we should stop computerized elections, because that is the sentiment of the people.

With the destruction caused by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng to the schools, basketball courts and other places that will be used for precincts in Metro Manila and Northern Luzon, I have doubts that COMELEC will be able to do even 50% computerization of the entire country.

-Are these, or other issues, you biggest concerns about the voting automation?

These two are some of the important concerns. There are others, about 30 vulnerabilities in all. Check the website of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance for the list of 30 vulnerabilities, Top among these vulnerabilites is the fact that Smartmatic will generate all private keys that will be used by the BEI staff for digitally signing the precinct election returns. Ideally, each BEI staff should generate his own private-public key pair, then password the private key so that only the BEI staff himself can access the private key for signing, and then have the public key certified by Smartmatic or by another certificate authority. But under Bid Bulletin No. 10, Smartmatic will generate all private-public key pairs of all BEI staff, and the BEI staff will only get their signing keys (private keys) on election day. This is bull$#!+, because it gives Smartmatic power to change all precinct ERs, then re-sign them with the private keys (which they have) and pass this modified precinct ER as if it was the original.

-Do you feel that COMELEC skimped out on buying high enough quality machinery for automation (I am thinking of the scanner which you mentioned is only able to read a limited number of shades of color)?

The original AES (automated election system) manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems of Canada consisted of the Democracy Suite Ballot Marking Device (BMD) and the Democracy Suite Image Cast Ballot Scanning Device (the PCOS computer).


The BMD+PCOS combination should be ideal, but Smartmatic supplied us only the PCOS computer. In the NY primaries, voters used the BMD to select their choices using a touch screen, and then the BMD prints the ballot using perfectly shaded ovals (the computer always shades the ovals in the perfect way it knows, and in no other way). So even if the PCOS computer can only read 16 shades of gray, that is sufficient, because the BMD computer printed the voter's choices, and the PCOS computer has been programmed to read THAT perfectly 100% of the time.

In the Philippine's case, 48 million voters will troop to the polls, and will fill out their ballots manually, using 48 million different styles of shading. You can not imagine how difficult the job of COMELEC will be, trying the customize the "% threshhold" that the PCOS computer will use to decide whether the shading is a vote or not.

-In it's September 10 decision upholding the validity of the COMELEC-Smartmatic/TIM contract, the Philippine Supreme Court asserted that PCOS successfully met minimum system capabilites standards with the use of the COMELEC 26 item/check list criteria listed below... (I suspect you are familiar with them, but I will include them for ready reference) (Test criteria clipped) Do you feel that these are sufficient and strict enough criteria to determine if the PCOS units can get the job done? Would you like to see any changes or additional testing of the machines, and if so, what?

I was member of the CenPEG team of observers during the SBAC testing (Special Bids and Awards Committee). First, the team of testers were not software test engineers but lay employees of COMELEC and people from Smartmatic. Second, whenever SBAC felt that the PCOS computer will fail in a test, the testers modified the test a bit, to ensure that the PCOS will pass. For example, the PCOS is known not to read pencil and ball-pen marks on the ballot. So all the tests were done using only felt-tip pen, but the COMELEC ToR specifies that the PCOS must be able to read pencil and ball pen marks also. Little mods like this erode your faith in the correctness of the SBAC testing.

-Do you feel that it is misplaced priorities to put automation in place when vote buying and other forms of fraud could sway elections without tampering with the PCOS units at all? Should COMELEC and the government deal with basic fraud and corruption before turning to automation to improve the election system?

I should not answer this question, because vote buying is not a problem unique to computerized elections, but also exist in manual elections. Ask someone else with more experience than I. Maybe, Mr. Bobby Tuazon, whom I cc'd here, could answer this question with more authority.

-Do you feel that COMELEC can manage the large number of laptops, other computers, and technology it will need for a successful automation in time for the elections?

COMELEC is essentially a team of lawyers who are not computer-techies. It depends on Smartmatic for EVERYTHING regarding computers and the computerization of elections. So outside of customization of data for elections (format of ballot, how many to print per precinct, what % shading to consider a vote, what are the names of candidates, etc.) everything else is the job of Smartmatic. This includes testing, warehousing, transportation, security, etc of the computers. For this reason, Atty Harry Roque claimed that COMELEC has surrendered its mandate to manage the computerized elections to Smartmatic.

-Do you feel that the potential scenarios for an election failure are serious enough to call off automation if it was possible to do so?

There will be no failure of elections. In places where there is no electricity or no cellular signal (so no transmission capability), there will be manual elections. In places where there is electricity and cellular signal, where computerized election is possible, if at any step of the computerized election process, there is a breakdown of computer or transmission capability, then the computerized election will just continue in a manual way. The ballot box will be opened, and the votes counted manually. How this will be done within the context of allowable COMELEC regulations will still be threshed out by COMELEC's implementing rules and regulations (IRRs), which COMELEC has been delaying for some time. I think their problem is, since computerized election is so unfamiliar to them, reverting to manual from computerized election is even more strange, and thus the long delay in the release of the IRR. Mr. Bobby Tuazon might want to add to this.

-Do you consider the PCOS technology too complicated for poll workers and the voting public?

For the poll workers and the voters in the cities and big towns, who are familiar with computer technology, there will be no problem. The problem will be in the far off rural areas, where people have not even seen a fax machine. But voter education can solve this problem, and COMELEC must start its voter education soon.

-Do you have another other thoughts on or points about automation that are not covered in my questions or I may yet be ignorant to?

Check the 30 vulnerabilities in the CenPEG web site,

Karen Cleans Our Piano (Oct 19 09)

On September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy submerged our piano in flood water which was chest-high in our sala area, where the piano was located. The piano is a Yamaha No. U3 made by Nippon Gakki. The wood frame, metal frame, and wood sounding board seem to have survived the flood without much damage, but the keys, hammers and actuators have all turned moldy after several days. We should call a competent repair man to put the unit in working condition again, but while we are waiting for the repair man, Karen and I decided to open the unit. Fortunately, piano construction is modular, and it is easy to get to the moldy parts for cleaning.

Karen, being a molecular biologist (biochemistry, microbiology, etc), knows how to remove molds. She took one cup Zonrox bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) and mixed this with 9 cups water to get her fungicide that will kill the molds, without removing the paintwork on the piano.

When the repairman comes to look at the unit, the molds will be gone, and the piano will be repairable again.

Wish us luck!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Caring for Your Netbook Keyboard (Oct 13 09)

In September 2007, when the MSI Wind U100 netbook first came out, the model that had 1GB ram and 80GB disk was selling for about PHP21-24 thousand. My daughters, Abigail and Karen, both wanted the white-colored version, but the only color available from PC Corner in Gilmore was "lady pink". Since Abigail was going to Reims, France, for her Erasmus Mundus masteral studies, she wanted one right away, no matter what color. Karen also had to make do with the pink one. The Wind U100 is a very nice model for women, since it is very portable, light enough and small enough to put inside a medium-sized woman's handbag, together with all other womanly stuff -- hair brushes, pad paper, notebooks, make-up kit, etc.

The younger daughter, Karen, abused this portability feature of her Wind. On occasion, she would place pad paper on the keyboard, close the netbook with the pad paper between screen and keyboard, and stuff the Wind into her bag. After several months, the poor fragile keyboard would not work anymore, and Karen had to bring her Wind to the repair center, Net Essentials, near Boni Serrano Avenue in Quezon City.

Net Essentials
#11 8th Avenue near corner Boni Serrano
Cubao, Quezon City

The repair people are quite efficient, and the cost of a new replacement keyboard was less than PHP2 thousand. Now, I think Karen will be very careful how she handles her MSI Wind.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Notre Dame of Marbel Class '63 (Oct 11 09)

I am a member of Notre Dame of Marbel Boys High School Class of 1963. At that time NDM had a Boys' Department, a Girls' Department, and a College Department. I think NDM is now NDM University.

In NDM, I learned many things. My first encounter with Algebra and the wonders of the variables x, y, and z had a mesmerizing effect on me. Physics with Bro Paul Johannes, on the grass and under the trees was actually better than inside the classroom. Even Geometry, which everyone feared, was enjoyable, even if everyone was trying to hide from our teacher whenever he shot a question to the class. On Mondays in Religion class, you had to recite (from memory) the previous Sunday's gospel, and that practically made me quite familiar with the New Testament. The Marist Brothers taught us pre-Vatican-II catechism, about the commandments of God and of the Church, mortal sin and venial sin, the sacraments. The Brothers taught us how to be good persons.

I made a number good friends: Cayetano Gregorio, Juanito Aquino, Leo Estember, Eliseo Vergara, Harry Malinao, Patricio M., etc. I was even Knight of the Altar, learning the rubrics in Latin, "Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domine", etc, while serving the Passionist priests in the main cathedral and in the Barrio-1 chapel.

For the first time in my adolescent years, I discovered that there are girls on the other side of campus. In Nueva Ecija High School, where I did my first and second years, I sat next to girls, but I did not notice that they were girls. They were just simply classmates. But not so in Notre Dame of Marbel. When you separate boys from girls, they notice each other. Of course, I was too young then (15-16) and small for my age, and the magic of academic studies was more attractive than the magic of girls. And so the sexual desire got sublimated, not in the Jesuit style, but in the distinctly PMana-cum-Marist-cum-Passionist style.

Today, three classmates emailed me. Leo Estember is an Engineer in the west coast. Eliseo Vergara is also in the U.S. Evangeline de Pedro (Valedictorian of Girls' Department) also got in touch. We will be celebrating our golden anniversary homecoming in 2013, and everyone is busy getting in touch with everyone else.

We will see you in 2013, and possibly earlier!

We stand today for our Notre Dame; Loyal and true we'll always remain.

SmartBro Nameserver (Oct 11 09)

I have a SmartBro microwave connection to the Internet. After the Marikina Valley flood, SmartBro disconnected my Internet service. I did not miss my emails, since I could always go to Burger King or McDo to avail of their free wifi service. Also, I lost the AC adapter (12VDC, 2A) of my Linksys wifi router; floodwater can do that to most electrical appliances. I discovered that a replacement AC adapter cost as must as a made-in-China Buffalo wifi router, and so I got the Buffalo instead. Today, I have Internet. Allelluia!

Then I found out that I could not connect to many Internet sites. I could not post to my Multiply blog site, since SmartBro could not find Multiply. Fortunately, I use Ubuntu Linux, not Windows, and am quite familiar with Linux networking. A check of the file /etc/resolv.conf revealed that SmartBro is using a local caching nameserver at I think this nameserver is not properly configured, and so could not give the proper IP addresses of many sites.

If you are a Linux user (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, CentOS, etc), I suggest that you become superuser (the su command will do the trick) and edit the file /etc/resolv.conf. After editing the file should look like:

# /etc/resolv.conf

The first two nameservers are those of OpenDNS (see OpenDNS provides free domain name service (DNS). Then save the file, and you instantly get proper name service. Now you can reach those sites that was previously unable to reach.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Source Code Review: CenPEG vs COMELEC (Oct 09 09)

CenPEG, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, finally did it. After waiting for five months since May 2009, for COMELEC to release the source code of the computer programs that will be used in the May 10, 2010 national and local elections, and after being given the run-around and subjecting to various delaying tactics, CenPEG filed on Monday Oct 9 2009, a petition for mandamus at the Supreme Court, to force COMELEC to release the source code to CenPEG and to interested political parties and groups, as mandated by law (RA-9369 Sec 12). CenPEG is represented in this petition by lawyers Koko Pimentel and Pancho Joaquin.

The text of the petition can be found here

Now it is a game of wait and see. CenPEG is hopeful that justice will prevail, and COMELEC will obey the law, and not run rings around it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Healing the Earth - Healing the Heart (Oct 03 09)

When I was teaching biology in Xavier School in San Juan, Jesuit priest Fr. Moran gave a retreat to the faculty. He showed a poster depicting us as little fish and around us are many bigger fishes. Then he showed us another poster showing us as little fish, and around us are many more little fishes, so much smaller than we are. I think the lesson that the posters is trying to depict is that we are not the most unfortunate creatures, since we can always find others less fortunate than we are. We should feel truly blessed for the gift of life that God gives us everyday we are still breathing.

I'm really quite fortunate -- I believe God has not truly abandoned me during the flood. My house was flooded to chest deep only, while two houses away, my neighbor had to climb up to the roof to stay out of the floodwater. I lost a few pets, while many families lost more than 300 parents or children. I lost one little car, while my neighbor Oafallas lost one car, two vans, one dump truck, etc. I can go on and on, and describe in so many ways how God loves me and took care of me and my family.

Whatever kind of fish we are: big or medium or small, we have to heal our wounded soul. We can't forever be hurting. So I am learning to forgive and to forget the administrators of Angat and Ipo and La Mesa for flooding my community. I will also forgive the wreckless people who throw plastic bags and styro stuff into our drains, clogging the waterways and contributing to the flooding problem of the metropolis. I am also trying to forgive myself for the lack of preparation during times of emergencies like this.

I am also fortunate that I work in a University where people care for you: for both your material and spiritual health. Today, Dean Marlu Vilches sent this message via email:

To live content with small means
to seek elegance rather than luxury
and refinement rather than fashion,
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart
to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely,
await occasions,
hurry never?
in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious
grow up through the common
This is to be my symphony.
William E. Channing

As a way of contributing to the University-wide endeavor towards the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the human spirit in the midst of the recent upheaval in our community and nation, the School of Humanities begins our return to class with a paraliturgy on the theme HEALING THE EARTH, HEALING OURSELVES, prepared by the Theology Department.
Through this event, we hope to encourage students, faculty, and staff to see the work of rebuilding in the light of faith.

Monday, 5th October 2009
5:00 to 6:30 PM
Natividad Galang Fajardo Conference Room
Ground Floor, Horacio de la Costa Hall
School of Humanities

You are most welcome to this evening of songs, poetry, readings from biblical texts, reflections on recent experiences. All this in view of recognizing our need for mercy and compassion, showing our praise and thanksgiving, and inclining ourselves to the call for service.

We continue to celebrate MAGIS in our responses to the crisis situation that our society faces today.

All the best,

Associate Professor
Dean, School of Humanities
Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University

Thursday, October 01, 2009

After the Flood (Oct 02 09)

Note that the title that I chose is "After the Flood", not "After the Typhoon", because there was hardly any typhoon. All we had was flooding due to the release of water from Angat, Ipo, and La Mesa dams, resulting in more than 300 deaths (not counting bodies that have not yet been found), massive destruction of property, sickness, and despair. And the culprits continue denying their culpability. If man does not judge their actions, God will.

All the houses in Kingsville suffered the same fate. Water entered into at least the first floor, wetting everything inside with semi-muddy floodwater, killing all electrical appliances, and wetting all books and clothes and documents. All wood appliances like pianos and composite wood cabinetry, absorbed water and bloated, making it difficult to take out the wet stuff inside. Composite wood cabinetry are useless after a flood, and must be thrown away. Narra sala sets are exceptions, since water hardly affected them. Plastic drawers in plastic cabinets retained 100% of water that entered, each drawer holding nearly five gallons of dirty floodwater.

Outside, on the driveway or on the street where floodlevel is deeper, water got into all vehicles parked there,. getting into every possible hole in the vehicles, including the air-filtration system, and replacing the fuel in the tank with the heavier floodwater. Also outside, where the pet dogs and pet cats are kept in their specially made dog and cat houses, many of them simply drowned, except those that you were able to bring inside the house.

You clean out the sala first, and then realize that you should have clean out the rooms first, because cleaning the rooms require that you bring out stuff from the rooms, through the sala, and out of the house onto the pingpong table in the driveway, where you transferred everything to dry, since you can not move them to dry out in the sun, because there is no sun, but only a steady drizzle. You can't imagine how heavy a King size mattress is when soaked in water - three muscled men are needed to drag the thing out of the house, not even lift it. Then you clean out all electrical outlets on the ground floor, in preparation for Meralco power, which you expect to come soon. When you went out to buy food, water, and other basic needs, two kilometers from your house, you got signal on your Globe mobile, which, by some magic trick from Globe, such Globe mobile signal is absent from the entire Kingsville Subdivision. Then your friend who lives in New Manila, whose first floor also got flooded, calls you and tells you not to turn on electricity to the outlets, because he did that and got a short, and now he has no power for several days.

Next you need to attend to the laundry, but you have no electrical power, and your washing machine and dryer are all flooded. So you bring some wet clothes to the cleaners, who promise you that your laundry will be ready for pick up in 12 days time, because they are full of other people's laundry. Fortunately, you have a son, who gives you his washing machine, and now wait for power to be restored. Finally after several days, power comes, and you spend hours spin-drying all the wet clothes. Now find out that you do not have enough clothes lines, and your problem never ends.

So you go out again to buy food, and you discover that your favorite Robinsons Supermarket also got flooded and will not be selling for the next several days, so you go to Sta Lucia, where food prices have miraculously gone up by 30%?

Next you try to see if you can have your Honda City towed to Honda Quezon Avenue, and find out that the queue is three cars deep all along the entire length of their service center, and if you bring your car in, they can attend to it after se3fveral months.

God have mery on us. God have mercy on those murderers from Angat, Ipo, and La Mesa!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Dams be Damned - Part 2 (Sep 28 09)

Typhoon Visits Kingsville Subdivision

This is my email to the Computer Science Faculty of Ateneo:

Please be informed that Typhoon Andoy also visited the Ateneo Faculty Housing in Kingsville Subdivision, Antipolo City. The flood near Gate 3 on Marcos Highway was one of the last Metro Manila floods to subside. Affected are the families of Dr. Jose Marasigan, Dr. Manny Dy, Dr. Pablo Manalastas, Dra. Baby Angtuaco, Mr. Pete San Pedro, Mr. Fred Oafallas (brother of Oafallas of Registrar's Office), and many others whose names I do not remember (part of being a senior citizen).

My house is about one meter above Ateneo Road in Kingsville, and Ateneo Road is about the same level as Marcos Highway. My driveway is two feet lower than my house. Under the worst floods we ever had in 23 years, the flood water never went above one foot from my driveway.

On Saturday, the flooding on my driveway reached about one foot high, when the rain stopped. The household thought that the flood will not reach any higher, because of historical experience. But the rain has already stopped for some time, and still the water rose higher. When the water level started reaching my floor at the sala, my household started moving stuff up the second floor attic, and then the worst flood came over our house. Inside the house the water level was waist-deep, but outside it was neck-high. Five of my ten dogs drowned in the flood and one of my two cats also drowned. Today I must bury six live beings. Our Honda City was submerged and full of mud and could not yet be revived. The keys on the piano at the sala stuck together and can not be played anymore. One TV is now caput. Water entered all our cabinets and all our clothes were soaked and muddied. And worst of all, my wife and I were not even at home, since I drove her to the office in the early morning of Saturday. We were not able to drive back home Saturday afternoon during the height of the flood. We tried going back home Sunday morning at 5:00 AM, got diverted by the stalled traffic into Marikina, but had to return to Ateneo, because there was no way to reach Marcos Highway from Marikina that was not flooded. My wife and I got home Sunday evening at 7:00 PM.

Everyone is alive and safe, but not okay.

Our relatives were calling us, but our mobile phones were running out of charge. We had relatives from Los Angeles telling us that for the past weeks, LA newspapers were warning that Angat dam could fail if water is not released to safe levels. I checked the online version of Inquirer, and I found this news item:
Waters in Bulacan dams breach maximum levels - 9/26/09
26 Sep 2009 ...
PDCC reports said the water level at the Angat Dam in Norzagaray town ... administering these dams ordered the release of excess water to ease the ...

Curiously, this article has been taken down (by order of Malacanang?)

My daughter reported that the rains have already stopped and the water level is hardly above my driveway. The big flood came long after the rain has stopped, and it came very quickly, hardly the result of heavy rain. The onrush of the flood can only be explained by a mathematical technique called Catastrophe Theory, since regular heavy rain will produce regularly rising flood levels, not the catastrophic onrush of water released from catastrophic source. So the massive flooding and mass killing of flood victims was probably a result of the release of water from Angat and Ipo.

The least this government can do is to ensure that this event is not repeated -- for heaven's sake, warn the people that you intend to release water from the dams weeks ahead of time, so that they can move to safer grounds. Don't mask your evil intentions under the cover of heavy rain, and blame the flooding on the rain! Face up to your responsibility.

The fairest this government can do is to compensate the victims!

~Pablo Manalastas~

The Dams be Damned? (Sep 28, 09)

We live at Ateneo Street, Kingsville Subdivision, Antipolo City. Kingsville is at the boundary of Antipolo and Marikina. Our Gate 3 is at Marcos Highway, and you just need to cross Marcos Highway to get to Marikina. Our neighbors are Filinvest East which is still in Antipolo and Town and Country in Pasig City. A little more to the east and you have Robinsons East Mall and Sta Lucia Mall.

We left the house on Saturday at 7:45 AM. The weather was fine and the traffic was light, it being Eid el'Ftr holiday. There was a slight drizzle but we had no indication of any impending doom. We reached my wife's office on Banawe Street Quezon City at 8:20 AM and a travel time of 35 minutes from Kingsville to Banawe is actually record time, travelling at a slow 50 kph. I had my usual breakfast of rice and eggs at Jollibee Siena and drove back to UP, hoping to read the transcripts of the congressional deliberations on Section 12 of RA-9369 at the CenPEG office, before going back home. On my drive to UP, the heavy rains started. Quezon Avenue in front of Children's Hospital was already flooding. Elliptical Road in front of Quezon City Hall was flooded and I had to carefully select the least-flooded lane. I reached UP and parked at the CSWCD, waiting for Roda Manalac, who was bringing the transcripts with her. Roda was taking public transport, and was texting me the progress of her travel. At about 11:00 am she told me that she was already near the Petron Station on Katipunan, near Sta Maria de la Strada Church. I decided to drive to Katipunan and then to proceed back home. I would then drop Roda at Robinsons, so she can take her ride home from there. But when I tried to exit UP, the guards at the Velasquez gate told me that CP Garcia was already flooded and I should take the Nawasa Gate. So I did, but I had to take east-bound counterflow lane of Katipunan instead of the west bound lane, because all the drivers were doing it. Before reaching the CP Garcia intersection, the traffic was already at a standstill, so I had to turn back intoUP Campus.

(I'm already running out of battery charge on my Wind laptop, so I will continue this post when we get our electricity back in a few days)

This post will try to point the connection between the release of water from Angat and Ipo dams to the massive destruction and death that occurred as a result of flooding in Central Luzon and in Cainta-Marikina-Pasig-Antipolo and surrounding areas. Please see:

[Bye for now, or till we get our power back. To my friends: My mobile phone has no more battery power, and we have no electricity. We are too busy cleaning out the mud from our house, and burrying five dead dogs and one cat. I wonder if we can resurrect our Honda City and the piano?]

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is the War Ended? (Sep 25 09)

I saw on cable TV a movie on the British American war. Near the end of the movie a young woman asks her mother, "Is the war ended?", to which the mother replied, "As long as there is a British soldier on American soil, the war is not ended".

Nais ko rin sanang tanungin kayo, "Ang ating laban ba ay tapos na?". Sa aking palagay, hanggang may isang sundalong Kano na nananatili sa lupang Pinoy o dagat ng Pinoy dahil sa VFA ay hindi pa tapos ang ating laban. Hanggang may isang sundalong Smith na nanggagahasa sa ating kababaihan at pagkatapos ay pakakawalan ng ganoon na lamang, ay hindi pa tapos ang ating laban. Hanggang may mga mambabatas na magpapahayag na ang karagatang nasa pagitan ng ating mga isla ay hindi bahagi ng ating teritoryo ay hindi pa tapos ang ating laban. Hanggang may mga Pinoy na sa isip at sa puso ay nanaisin pang maging estado ng Amerika ang Pilipinas, ay hindi pa tapos ang ating laban. Hanggang tayo ay umaasa pa sa pag-angkat ng ating pagkain at iba pang gamit galing sa ibang bansa, hindi pa tapos ang ating laban.

Napakarami nating dapat gawin upang mapag-isa ang mga Pilipino sa isip, salita at sa gawa, upang matutunan nating mahalin ang ating bayan, sapagka't tayo lamang ang maaaring magmahal sa ating kapwa Pilipino.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Death of Election 2010 Source Code Review (Sep 23 09)

If you saw the ANC special on Election 2010 at 8:00 o'clock PM on Monday night, where I asked Comelec when the source code of the Election 2010 computer programs will be released for review by interested political parties and groups, Director Rafanan said that CenPEG will not do a source code review, but a international certification agency will do the review as a prerequisite to TEC certification. After customization in November 2009, and after code review by that international certification agency in February 2010, the source code will be "shown" to interested political parties, but not reviewed by them. The PPCRV representative and Ramon Casiple and Renato Garcia even added that the source code will be presented in much the same manner that a company shows its financial statements to the public.

My daughter Karen keeps telling me that I should not cite the law, RA-9369 Section 12, which reads:

"Once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups which may conduct their own review thereof."

She says that I should not cite the law to the lawyers of COMELEC, since they are better at the law, and they can can twist the meaning of the law to whatever they want the law to look like. But I argue with her that this provision is not just a question of law, but a question of computer technology as well, at which I am slightly better than the lawyers of COMELEC. No matter how I twist and turn and squeeze and pull and push these words of Section 12, I see no way out but for COMELEC to release the source code to the political parties and groups who are interested, and showing them the advertizing page of a company giving a healthy financial statement of the company is not a substitute for source code review. Ask any computer programmer, ask Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, ask the members of the Philippine Linux Users' Group and they will NEVER agree that showing the public a certification by an international certification agency that states that the Dominion Voting Systems "Democracy Suite Ballot Marking System plus the Democracy Suite Image Cast" has been certified and is suitable for use in the Primaries in New York, is not an acceptable certification that the "Democracy Suite Image Cast" alone (which Smartmatic has renamed to SAES-1800 PCOS computer) is suitable for use in the Philippines.

What I do not understand is why "computer security experts" like Mr. Mata and others from the CyberSecurity groups do not want the political parties to do a source code review. Why should reviewing the source code make the election programs more susceptible to external attacks? Have they not seen the experience of Linux and OpenOffice and GIMP and so many other programs that are freely available on the Net? Their source codes are available for ANYONE to download and review and modify to their hearts' content, and never have I seen a report stating that the security of Linux or OpenOffice or GIMP has been compromised as a result of these reviews. On the other hand, the source code of Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, are not available for download anywhere, and yet there are gazillions of viruses and vulnerabilities of Windows. This is because opening up the source code for review allows more people to study and to help correct the vulnerabilities. These corrections for improvement can be accepted by COMELEC, if it wants and rejected otherwise. It is still COMELEC's call. It is COMELEC's acceptance or rejection of suggestions for improvements that will determine the future quality of the election programs, not the source code review itself.

But Director Rafanan has already made his final word on the issue, and I believe Director Rafanan's word is god's word. May God bless COMELEC, and may I ask, like Jesus asked, to "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Installing MPI (Sep 20 09)

My daughter (Karen) and I are studying parallel programming in MPI. We have these beautiful books, "Parallel Programming in C with MPI and OpenMP" by Michael Quinn and "Parallel Programming with MPI" by Peter Pacheco to serve as guides. All we need are the actual MPI support libraries and include files. Karen intends to run parallel programs on her four-node Rockscluster at the UP-NIMBB. For test-programming at home, we need to try out our ideas on our personal laptops, before trying on the cluster.

We decided to standardize on the MPI implementation MPICH from Argonne National Laboratories, since our friend Allan Espinosa works there, and should we get into problems, we can always email him. On Karen's Ubuntu Jaunty laptop, all she needed to do start Synaptic Package Manager, select mpich2 and mpich2-dev, and everything is installed for her. Ubuntu is truly friendly to human beings (specially the parallel computing kind).

On my Fedora Leonidas laptop, typing the command "yum install mpich2 mpich2-devel" does not work. I had to do a manual rpmfind to locate the rpms that I need. If you use Leonidas, you will need to get the following:

Use the "rpm -i" command to install these rpms. The MPI header file will be installed in /usr/include/mpich2/mpi.h, and the libraries will be installed in /usr/lib/mpich2/", which are fairly standard places. Thus our C source code should have the include directive


and our gcc command line should look like

gcc myprog.c ... -L/usr/lib/mpich2 -lmpich -o myprog

Thus we need to add -L and -l among other compiler directives.

Since building a compute cluster is fairly cheap at current Gilmore prices, and since the necessary development tools are freely downloadable, every scientist can now experiment with parallel computing, and pretend that you were using a Cray computer, while sipping Philippine Barako coffee. Enjoy!