Ex-Comelec chairman raps poll agency

THE Commission on Elections and its automated election project partner Smartmatic Corp. should be held responsible for the system change in the transparency server on the night of the May 9 polls, former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod said  Wednesday.

“It may be just cosmetic change. But it just shows that the system is vulnerable. We have known that for a long time that there is no system that is not vulnerable. The Comelec did not have tight control or safeguarding,” said Monsod in a forum at the Club Filipino in San Juan.

He also denounced how Smartmatic has been given so much power in the conduct of the elections, saying it should not have been the case.

“The biggest lesson in automation is never let the supplier control the operation. Never give them control 

or access to all critical and important points. They do their jobs, they supply the software but ...the supplier must not operate. This must be purely the responsibility of the Comelec and the Filipino experts in technology,” Monsod said.

Canvass starts. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are joined by Comelec officials and lawyers for presidential and vice presidential candidates in inspecting the Certificates of Canvass on the first day of the official counting of votes for the top two positions at the Batasan session hall in Quezon City on Wednesday. Manny Palmero
Smartmatic was also the automated election project partner of the poll body in the 2010 presidential elections and 2013 mid-term polls.

Monsod called on the government to conduct an investigation on the insertion made by Smartmatic to the transparency server and other election-related irregularities and violent incidents in Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Witnesses revealed that no election happened in the areas because the people were prevented by supporters of the ruling Liberal Party, the political party of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III.

Bassir Utto, who ran for vice mayor under the United Nationalist Alliance at Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao, said many of his supporters were prevented by people of incumbent LP Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom from entering their precincts.

LP supporters, Utto said, also engaged in ballot shading in favor of administration candidate for vice president Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo. He said he has the video to show the wholesale vote shaving in favor of Robredo in his province.

Victor Abillo, provincial coordinator of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte in Basilan, also said his watchers in the municipalities in the province reported to them that many voters were prevented from casting their votes by armed men who controlled the precincts.

In many of these areas, he pointed out, all the presidential and vice presidential candidates except former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Robredo had zero votes.

Information technology expert Edmund Casino, of the Philippine Computer Society, told The Standard that cheating happened even before the May 9 polls.

“About 30 days before the elections, the Comelec said there would be a change in the source code, even though the code should have been certified 90 days earlier. Why did we bother with a source code review? They’re saying there was something wrong with the configuration or in the list of candidates, which is quite lame,” he said.

Casino also believed that the unauthorized change in the server on May 9 affected the votes for vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“The election management system has a master file, if you go there you will see the list of all candidates, their areas and positions. If you get to the master file, you can do anything. The mere fact that the file is there is wrong, but the Comelec let that go,” he added.

One of the complainants against Smartmatic and the Comelec, the activist priest Robert Reyes, rejected proposals to proclaim the winner in the vice presidential race before conducting a systems audit of the transparency and central servers of the automated election system.

He said these issues would become moot and academic once a winning candidate is proclaimed.

Reyes said a system audit should be conducted first to resolve the reported anomalies and clarify all issues.

Members of the Mata sa Balota Movement led by Rodolfo Javellana said  Wednesday  they are set to file an impeachment complaint against Comelec officials in connection with the alleged irregularities during the elections.

Election watchdog AES Watch co-convenor Bobby Tuazon earlier described the recently concluded election as “disaster.”

“After monopolizing the election technology in three automated elections, it is time for Smartmatic to call it quits,” Tuazon said.

He added it was Smartmatic that “practically counted the votes by using a system that is not transparent thus leaving the country’s millions of voters in the dark whether their votes were properly and accurately counted.”

The Comelec earlier said it deferred Marcos’ request that his IT experts be allowed to do a system audit in view of the unauthorized changes in the program used by the transparency server.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista confirmed that the commission en banc has decided to indefinitely defer Marcos’ request.

“It was our unanimous vote to defer action on the request of Senator Marcos,” Bautista said adding that the Commission en banc had a very “comprehensive” discussions last Tuesday’s meeting on Marcos’ request.

Bautista said the Comelec had reservations about granting the request, considering the Marcos camp has already filed cases against them, and might use the audit in those pending complaints.

“There are these criminal complaints versus Smartmatic and Comelec. What could happen if they find anything during the audit? Will they use it as evidence?” Bautista said.

Bautista also said they were wary about the effects of such an audit on the ongoing canvassing at the Congress.

“We have reservations since canvassing has already begun in Congress, which also has the mandate to proclaim the winning president and vice president. So, what could be its effect if we allow this audit by a particular candidate?” he said, without elaborating.

Bautista said that system audit may not be necessary since the Comelec has already given all political parties, including the camp of Marcos, some enough time to scrutinize the automate election systems (AES) months before the elections on May 9.

He did not say, however, how this scrutiny could have foreseen the unauthorized changes in the transparency server code made by a Smartmatic technician on the evening of May 9, after the polls had closed.

Last week, Marcos asked the Comelec to allow his camp to send in some IT experts to conduct the systems audit with the close supervision of the Comelec.

Marcos said he called for a system audit to determine whether or not there were other changes in the systems that could have affected the vice presidential race.

He said the change in script might be the reason he was losing in the unofficial count by about 200,000 votes to Liberal Party’s vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

The Marcos camp  on Wednesday  urged the 14-person National Board of Canvassers to exercise caution and thoroughly examine each certificate of canvass in the hotly contested vice presidential race, given the irregularities in the automated election system.

At the same time, former Maguindanao congressman Didagen Dilangalen, one of the counsels for Marcos, called for a separate canvassing of votes for president and vice president in last May 9 general elections.

As the joint congressional panel officially began its tallying of votes, Dilangalen said that his manifestation for a separate canvassing of presidential and vice presidential votes are allowed under the Constitution.

“The vice presidential position is tightly and hotly contested. We all should proceed with caution and examine each certificate of canvass, both electronically transmitted and manually transmitted,” Dilangalen told the joint congressional canvassing committee said at the opening part of the canvassing.

Topics: Comelec , Smartmatic , Canvass starts , Certificates of Canvass
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