‘Cheating is already in place’

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is out to manipulate results of the coming presidential and local polls to favor administration bets, according to an advocate for transparent and clean elections.

Lawyer Glenn Chong, spokesman for election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition (RPC) on Sunday disclosed that the Comelec did not subject the trusted build of the election management system (EMS) program and as well as its newly-created version to an independent source code review to prime up the vote counting machines (VCMs) for cheating.

Chong pointed out that the non-review of the EMS source code was admitted to him by Mario Garcia, project manager of election provider Smartmatic Corp., which supplied the three programs of the Automation Election System (AES) and the 97,519 VCMs that will be used in the May 9 polls.

“I asked him why did you make the trusted build when the source code has not yet been reviewed yet? He told me that they were already short of time and thus reversed the process of coming up with the trusted build before subjecting it to a source code review,” Chong told The Manila Times.

“Witholding a piece of code from the source code reviewers, refusal to print the voters’ receipt and the sudden revisit of the source and recompilation of the EMS trusted build as a way to possibly neutralize the exit poll strategy all point to one thing–kasado ang dayaan [cheating is already in place] as of today. I am dead sure about it,” he said. “I will bet my entire fortune on this conclusion.”

Chong added that there are two versions of the EMS that were deposited in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

“The source code review is all but a zarzuela. We will push for the reviewers not to give their imprimatur and not to sign the report on the source code,” he said.

The AES is composed of three programs–the EMS, the VCM and the consolidation canvassing system (CCS).

The original trusted build code for EMS was finished last January.

On February 8, however, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista announced that there were incompatibility problems on the two programs, the EMS and the consolidation canvassing system (CCS) which, in effect, postponed the printing of official ballots for the third time.

On Friday, Bautista said the problem has been cured after depositing the new EMS version in a rented vault at the BSP, which also paved the way for the holding of mock elections in 20 locations all over the country.

On August 8, 2015, the Comelec signed a $766,000 or P35-million contract with SLI Global Solutions (SLI) for the testing and review of the source code, which contains the customized program for Philippine elections that would be loaded on the VCMs.

SLI, a Colorado-based firm, is the same firm that conducted the source code review during the 2013 elections.

As certifier, SLI will make sure that the source code submitted by Smartmatic meets specifications and performance and adheres to deliver what the Comelec needs, and as well as protect the AES against hacking or unwarranted entries.

Prior to the SLI review, the Comelec conducted last year a base source code review.

Bautista said then that after the source code has been certified by SLI, it would be made again available for review as provided in Republic Act 9369 before February 2016.

Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim explained that the source code is basically an independent auditor to ensure that system is running free from possible malicious lines and ensure that one’s vote would be credited to the candidate voted upon.

Chong pointed out that anything can go wrong if just one piece of code is withheld from source code review, which, he pointed out, is what the Comelec has exactly done.

He explained that the Comelec tweaked the original trusted build in anticipation of possible exit polls, which according to a Supreme Court decision in ABS-CBN vs Comelec case are an essential part of freedom of speech and of the press and cannot be banned.

Chong said they would be filing a new petition for mandamus in the Supreme Court over removal of the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPA), one of the four minimum security requirements provided for under Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election System Law.

The VVPAT system is designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly through the issuance of a receipt, showing the names of candidates that they voted.

It serves as a deterrent against possible election fraud and would provide a means to audit the stored electronic results./ by WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL, REPORTER


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