THE Liberal Party’s vice presidential bet Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo was the beneficiary of “manipulated, anomalous and abnormal data” that appeared shortly after a new script was uploaded to the transparency server that was reporting unofficial election results on May 9, a study by two university professors said.
Professors Antonio Contreras of De La Salle University and Rogelio Quevedo of the University of the Philippines on Monday urged the Commission on Elections to conduct an independent “forensic investigation” into the entire automated election system (AES) after a Smartmatic technician uploaded the script that altered the system’s hash code, apparently without authorization.
Although Smartmatic project director Marlon Garcia said the changes were “cosmetic,” the professors said the unofficial count from the transparency server showed “a linear line” that favored Robredo in the vice presidential race after the script was introduced.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Contreras and Quevedo emphasized that anomalies in the system occurred after the hash code was changed.
Contreras said a straight line increase in a candidate’s vote count was not normal, especially when results from many areas were being transmitted at random.
“There should have been an up and down spikes depending on the areas coming in but in the vice presidential race, there was only one line upwards and then after the 80-percent transmission rate, Senator [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr. slowed down] in a linear [way] that was really abnormal,” Contreras said.
It was during the hours after the script was introduced that Marcos’ one-million-vote lead was overtaken, Contreras and Quevedo said.
Quevedo said the introduction of the script triggered a change in the system that altered the results.
“I could categorically state that it is not accurate [to say] that a mere change in the hash codes will not result in cheating,” Quevedo said.
Asked who was the beneficiary of the abnormal data in the elections results, Contreras said: “It is obviously Robredo because she was the one who took the lead shortly after the hash codes were changed.”
Quevedo, also a member of the Comelec Advisory Council, said even the supposed investigation made by the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting showing that the system change did not cause any modification in the results was “merely superficial and self-serving.”
Quevedo added the PPCRV was not qualified to make such a finding.
“I am asserting that PPCRV is not in any way in a position to make that finding. They could not say there was no anomaly because they were present when that interference in the transparency server was made and they allowed it. So PPCRV’s investigation is just self-serving. It is just exonerating itself,” Quevedo said.
Contreras said the linear increase in Robredo’s votes could only be the result of manipulated data.
“We didn’t just study Marcos and Robredo, but all the vice presidential candidates,” Contreras said in Filipino. “All of them showed a straight line. This would not have happened to the transmission if another program had not been introduced.”
Any increases, he added would not be in a straight line.
Quevedo of the UP College of Law, and Contreras a professor of political science at DLSU, debunked the claim of the Comelec, the PPCRV and Smartmatic that the changing of the system, which in turn changed the hash codes, was merely cosmetic, saying “no IT expert in his right mind would dismiss it as a minor change.”
Quevedo said as a lawyer whose expertise is IT, he has strong belief that the change of the “?” to “ñ” is a trigger that caused some changes in the entire system.
Last week, Garcia admitted having ordered the change in the hash code as he said a new script had to be introduced to change the “?” to “ñ” in the names of some candidates such as Roy Señeres for president and Sergio Osmeña and Getulio Napeñas for senator.
But Quevedo pointed out that the mere change in the hash code during the transmission period meant “something was not right.”
Although he refused to say there was cheating in the transmission, Quevedo said the Comelec should order a forensic investigation to erase any doubts created by the unauthorized change in the system’s code.
“If Comelec really wants to project itself as the body in charge of the election, that it is transparent and not biased, then it should immediately order the forensic investigation of the transmission and the election results,” he said.
A forensic investigation would examine the system’s historical data and determine what changes were made to the system, said Quevedo, a top executive and lawyer for Smart Communications Inc.
Both Quevedo and Contreras clarified they were not rooting for any particular candidate, but merely interested in ensuring the integrity of the elections.
He said questions on the AES had surfaced in the 2010 and 2013 elections but were not corrected despite their repeated pleas with the Comelec.
On Monday, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon asked her colleagues to seek a hold departure order against Garcia.
In a memo, Guanzon asked the Comelec en banc to direct Smartmatic to prohibit their officers and personnel from leaving the country while an investigation is ongoing.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, however, said it was premature to involve the Bureau of Immigration.
“Nobody has told me they were leaving so why are we talking about whether they should be allowed to leave when nobody is leaving in the first place?” Bautista asked Guanzon.
He assured the other commissioners that Smartmatic officials were not planning to leave the country.
Bautista, in a press briefing, also insisted there was no manipulation of the voting results, and said the Marcos camp has yet to file a formal complaint.
Also on Monday, the camps of five senatorial bets filed a manifestation before the Comelec to declare an early proclamation for the top finishers in the senatorial race.
The manifestation was filed by lawyers for former Justice secretary Leila de Lima, Senators Ralph Recto, Vicente Sotto III, former senator Francis Pangilinan, and former Technical Education Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva. With John Paolo Bencito and Maricel V. Cruz
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