Senate bets join ‘rigging’ protest
SENATORIAL candidates raised a howl of protest Thursday over discrepancies between the tallied votes recorded by the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Commission on Elections, saying these suggested vote padding and shaving.
As the Comelec National Board of Canvassers convened, lawyers for independent senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino demanded a thorough investigation of discrepancies in the tallies of his votes from Davao del Sur, Laguna and Rizal.
Tolentino, who currently ranks 13th, objected to the canvassing of certificates of canvass from Davao del Sur and questioned the “huge” discrepancies in the tallies.
Tolentino’s election returns from the PPCRV’s transparency server reflected 435,471 votes but the CoC tabulations transmitted to the Comelec recorded only 101,333 or a difference of 334,138 votes “shaved” from the Davao del Sur results.
Tolentino’s lawyers also noted that the Davao del Sur provincial board of canvassers transmitted their CoCs four times.
In Misamis, some 100,000 votes were found missing from former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s tally in the PPCRV count. Zubiri now ranks 6th in the senatorial race.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan urged Congress and Comelec to investigate immediately
the allegations of a “serious breach” in which a technician of Smartmatic inserted a new program that may have altered the hash codes of the Comelec transparency server.
This was revealed yesterday by an IT expert monitoring the PPCRV server.
A Venezuelan Smartmatic technician admitted to installing the program when confronted.
“That a foreign national can simply make alterations to the AES programming raises questions on the credibility and integrity of the whole election process. The system is not secure from tampering from within,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
“There should be a thorough investigation as well on the transmission of votes that took place on May 9 and the alleged discrepancies between the figures that appeared in the Comelec’s official count and the transparency servers,” he said.
Both Comelec and Smartmatic, Reyes said, were to blame for any doubts in the results of the elections.
The camp of independent vice presidential candidate Senator Marcos on Thursday also demanded that Smartmatic and Comelec open up its “network operating system” based in Fort Bonifacio or Comelec command center to find out the extent of the tampering beyond the changing of names bearing the “letter ñ” after the hash code was “illegally” changed.
“Once you breached the security and changed the hash code of the transparency server that receives all the transmitted encrypted files, including the results and election returns, anything goes, everything is compromised, anything can be altered, even the results. They can do anything from afar without us even looking,” the IT expert accredited by the PPCRV, who witnessed the tampering, told The Standard.
Marcos’ political campaign adviser Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz chided the Comelec for playing down the serious breach as mere “lapses.”
“We want to find out what alterations have been made beyond the names of the late presidential candidate Roy Señeres and reelectionist Senator Serge Osmeña,” Dela Cruz said.
A transcript of the video and audio recording of the “confrontation” between Smartmatic and PPCRV-accredited IT experts showed the admission of the Venezuelan Smartmatic IT expert that a “new script” had to be introduced to change the erroneous names of candidates.
The Venezuelan Smartmatic IT expert said the “ñ” was inadvertently replaced with a question mark.
“The issue here is no longer whether or not the results had been altered. The issue here is the integrity of the system and our quest for truth,” Dela Cruz said.
A few hours after the breach, the IT expert who requested anonymity, said a “clogging” in the system was observed and the one million vote lead of Marcos over his closest rival Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo of the ruling Liberal Party started to narrow.
The source said the “major breach” would now compel Marcos and other senatorial candidates—Tolentino, Osmeña and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez—who ranked 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively, to question the integrity of the results and demand answers from the Comelec on how the violation of protocols could have possibly happened.
The source said all the PPCRV’s unofficial and Comelec’s official results would come only from a single source—the transparency server of the Comelec.
“The whole system has been compromised. The integrity of the results is now under question. While everybody was busy doing the counting, the Venezuelan IT expert from Smartmatic inserted a new script or a new computer program into the system around 7:30 p.m. of Monday, May 9, 2016,” the IT expert told The Standard.
The IT expert said there was no Comelec official present when the tampering of the system took place.
When confronted, the source said the Venezuelan admitted that the order to introduce a new script came from Marlon Garcia, project director of Smartmatic.
The source said the “confrontation” had been recorded on video and audio.
“The Smartmatic IT expert’s job was only to ‘receive, decrypt and distribute’ the files. Since we are also IT experts and we have been doing this since the preparation for seven months already, we knew what the Venezuelan did was something irregular. He introduced a new script, a new computer program and commands that could alter everything and supersede the existing program,” he said.
He explained that the breach was confirmed when the “hash code” that was inside the transparency server was different from the hash code brought in by the Smartmatic.
“The hash code inside the transparency server should be the same as the one to be inserted. We saw they’re different so we started to be suspicious and confronted the guy,” the source said.
But Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista played down the new script and described it as “tweaking.”
“It is true that someone from Smartmatic corrected a script—from ‘?’ to ‘ñ’,” Bautista said, but assured the public the “tweaking” would not “affect the integrity of the numbers.”
Earlier, a lawyer for Marcos, Francesca Huang, said the transparency server had been breached when a new script was introduced.
In a press conference, both the Comelec and its technical provider Smartmatic admitted that there were changes made on May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Bautista said it was Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia who corrected all candidates with a “?” to “ñ”.
“He confirmed that the data has ‘?’ In the name of a candidate. He then made the necessary modification on the script and corrected the ‘?’ to an ‘ñ’ right away,” Bautista said.
Bautista denied that he was involved in the tweaking, or that he ordered Garcia to change the script.
Bautista added that the Smartmatic action was just a “cosmetic change” and that the public has nothing to worry about.
“Several candidates had names with ‘ñ’. So it would look funny for names such as Señeres and Napeñas have question marks. It was thought that it would be cleaner if changes were to be made,” the poll chief added.
Bautista also slammed accusations of cheating from the Marcos camp.
“There is no cheating whatsoever,” Bautista said while shaking his head, and maintained that the Comelec records are open to the public for scrutiny.
“If you wish to obtain records from us we will provide anything,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim admitted that the correction by Smartmatic was a lapse in protocol. He added that there was no need to make changes if it was for “cosmetic purposes.”
“If you ask me, had I been informed ahead, I would have said no. Now, it just added more fuel to (the controversy over the elections),” he said.
Smartmatic project director Ellie Moreno said Garcia acted it in good faith.
“It is not necessary, but Garcia saw that there was something wrong in it, so in good faith he cosmetically changed it,” Moreno said.
Moreno said the change was made only in the transparency server which the PPCRV.
He also said nothing has changed as a result of the new script.
“The results of the ERs are everywhere, there 30 copies printed from every polling center, and if you got one of it, and compare it to the transparency server, it will match,” Moreno assured.
The Palace on Thursday denied allegations that the server was breached so that administration candidate for vice president Leni Robredo could defeat Marcos.
“The allegations regarding Palace involvement are untrue and unfounded,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
“Comelec is fully responsible for overseeing the automated election system and the executive branch has no part in this process,” she added.
Coloma also denied allegations made by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that the Palace took part in cheating Marcos.
In the unofficial count, Robredo still lead Marcos by more than 200,000 votes.
Robredo on Thursday challenged the Marcos camp to support their claims of poll cheating.
“What is clear to us is that we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not a party in any of these cases. Whatever is their accusations, they need to substantiate them,” Robredo said in a television interview over GMA 7.
“It’s unfair that they are saying that there are cheating claims, there is fraud but they don’t have any evidence or basis. They’re just conditioning the minds of the people,” Robredo said. – With Sandy Araneta, Vito Barcelo and John Paolo Bencito