A friend from abroad, who regularly visits the Philippines and takes keen interest in political and business developments here, has written me a long note in reaction to my column (“The question Comelec must answer,” Manila Times, 17 May 2016), and in comment on Smartmatic’s tampering with the Comelec transparency server.
I reproduce his note in this space today because of his unsettling warning that this anomaly could be more complex and bigger than we realize.
My friend and reader is a business executive who has done much work in integrating information technology in business management. He knows what he is talking about.
Comelec’s staggering unprofessionalism and irresponsibility
“I was astounded that the first principles of database security and change management were completely flouted by Comelec and Smartmatic. It immediately raised a red flag and confirmed that elections in the Philippines are determined not by who votes, but by who counts the votes.
“The fact that Comelec is so blase about something so critical shows either a complete lack of IT understanding, or something more sinister.
“The level of unprofessionalism and irresponsibility displayed by Comelec is staggering.
“Firstly, you never make a change to a live running system, and an untested change at that.
“Secondly, you never give a supplier free, and sole, access to your systems.
“Thirdly, all changes must go through a formal change control procedure, duly tested and signed off.
“In computing there is the use of Trojan Horses—these are simple and innocuous commands which trigger pre-embedded routines.
“Modern Trojan Horses are difficult to detect, and often ‘clean up’ after themselves, particularly if a second change was made at a later time/date.
“The mystery of Smartmatic personnel at a hotel a few days prior to the election was never resolved but they could well have been testing a number of scripts to enact a number of scenarios. They seem to have had free rein over the system whenever they wanted.
“The existence of a secret/intermediary server also necessitates further questions.
“Access to the source code, the systems log, and interviewing the systems administrator should be done sooner rather than later or records will disappear, and personnel will have left the country….
“Any ability to install a Trojan horse in the system must be considered as a potential for subverting an election.
“Trojan horses, trapdoors, interpreted data, and other subversions can be hidden, even in systems that have received extensive scrutiny. The integrity of the entire computer-aided election process may be compromised internally.
“The whole episode points to collusion and corruption.
“Smartmatic, aka Smartfraud, has captured the market in elections in third-world countries.
“With a customer list of Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, no reputable country would trust their democracy to them!
“Only in the Philippines do cheats prosper.”
This could help in the various efforts to correct and repair the damage the breach of security has done to our 2016 elections.
Bongbong seeks systems audit
By the time this column sees life in print or online, the camp of Sen. Bongbong Marcos should already have filed yesterday (May 18) its demand letter to the Commission on Elections asking the poll body to open the Automated Election System (AES) for a systems audit after the discovery of irregularities in the tabulation of results of the May 9 elections.
They contend that only a systems audit will show if the election results were not affected by the change in the script done to the server.
A systems audit will put to rest the question whether or not the changing of the ‘?’ to ‘ñ’ that resulted in a major distortion of the real results.
Among other things, the Marcos team noted the “highly irregular” number of undervotes in the vice-presidential race.
An “undervote” means that the voter did not select any candidate for a position.
“Overall, there were more than 3.3 million undervotes in the 2016 vice-presidential derby and, in a highly contested race, we consider the same as highly suspicious,” the team said.
At a media forum held at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday, two university professors declared that based on their analysis, LP vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo was the beneficiary of “manipulated, anomalous and abnormal data” that appeared shortly after a new script was uploaded to the Comelec transparency server on May 9.
Professors Antonio Contreras, of De La Salle University, and Rogelio Quevedo (University of the Philippines) urged the Comelec to conduct an independent “forensic investigation” into the entire automated election system after a Smartmatic technician uploaded the script that altered the system’s hash code without authorization.
Contreras and Quevedo stressed 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.
Quevedo, a law professor and IT expert, said the introduction of the script triggered a change in the system that altered the results.
“I can categorically state that it is not accurate [to say]that a mere change in the hash codes will not result in cheating,” Quevedo said.
Quevedo contended that 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.
A forensic investigation would examine the system’s historical data and determine what changes were made to the system, he said.
Conspiracy to subvert election process
The available facts point to a real conspiracy to subvert the election process by manipulating the tabulation of the votes.
I think Comelec, Smartmatic, PPCRV and the Liberal Party and Aquino administration were all involved in the conspiracy.
Comelec facilitated the cheating.
Smartmatic designed and executed the computer fraud.
PPCRV circulated the manipulated results via the unofficial count, as an accredited Comelec watchdog with access to media. The location of the Comelec transparency server at PPCRV headquarters points to a front seat in the plot.
The LP financed the conspiracy.
It would be a mercy if Smartmatic’s evil scheme affected only the transparency server. If there was also a secret/intermediary server, the cheating would be more widespread and could infect the official canvass of the votes.
The priority now is to bring out the real results of the elections, with the VP race just one among the contests.