To hear the double talk of Comelec chairman Andres Bautista, the hacking of the voters’ data of the Commission on Elections should be no cause for alarm. It is just an ordinary happening for the nation’s premier agency in supervising the exercise of suffrage and the election of our public officials in local and national government.
This is grievously mistaken about the crime of hacking and misguided in its idea of how the problem should be resolved. The original finding of the National Privacy Commission is that on March 2016 there was a data breach of the Comelec’s voters’ data base, which may be used by private hackers and could victimize the individual voters affected. It suggested further that affected voters can sue the Comelec and its chairman for damages. Several public watchdogs have expressed their intent to file suit.
Instead of dealing with the issue squarely, like rebutting thoughtfully the charge that the Comelec was negligent in its duty to protect its voters’ data base, Chairman Bautista has taken the arrogant and misguided position of challenging critics and complaining groups to initiate an impeachment charge against him in connection with the ComeLeak controversy.
“Go ahead,” Bautista boasted. “The truth will set us free, so go ahead.” He said impeachment proceedings would be an opportunity for him and the Comelec to clear their names.
“We actually want a full- blown investigation to be conducted on the hacking. We want a hearing on this in aid of legislation.”
Bautistia questioned the privacy commission’s ruling saying that the commission had “misappreciated facts, legal principles, and material contexts.”
And then he argued that the hackers are the ones who should be punished, not the hacked (meaning the Comelec).
This is misleading and dismaying.
It is Comelec which has a sworn and constitutional duty to protect the information of voters within its registry.
It is the voters who are the victims of the hacking, not the Comelec, because they are the ones who will be disadvantaged if any piece of their personal information is misused.
If anyone has a primordial duty to press for an investigation of the hacking, to ferret out its perpetrators, it is Comelec. It should be the one to call on the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate. That is not for Congress to undertake.
Bautista says the Comelec submitted a report on Dec. 29 and implied that it addressed all issues. That report, if true and substantive, must be made public.
The issue in any case is a matter of law and duty – of law in regard to the elections and the right of suffrage, and the constitutional duty of the Comelec to conduct free and fair elections in our country.
Bautista with his cavalier attitude misrepresents the seriousness of hacking as a crime to the Filipino public, when in fact today it has become a major international issue in the relations of nations. Russia has been accused by the US of hacking and intervening in its recent elections, damaging relations enough to cause the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US. China has similarly been accused of cybercrime by the US.
We believe the statements of the Comelec Chairman are just as troubling as the hacking, because they indicate how ineptly the election body does its work, and how badly it is being led.