THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is likely to grant the petition of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for a technical and systems audit of its transparency and central servers but it will not be conducted by the senator’s team of information technology (IT) experts but by an independent team.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Thursday said that he will propose the creation of an independent team of IT experts when the En Banc tackles the issue next week.
He said the audit should be non-partisan or free from any political intervention.
“I have not yet informed the En Banc about my plan to create an independent group. It would be best if we form a group of well known [IT experts) with proven capability and experience and non-partisan,” Bautista said in a radio interview.
“If you are working for a client, you will push for an end-result that would suit the interest of your client,” the poll chief pointed out.”
But Bautista said conducting an audit of the automated election system is not that simple because it also involves intellectual property issues on confidentiality.
“Smartmatic has proprietary rights on the source code. It’s a read only, like a PDF (portable document format) file which content you cannot change,” he explained. “We should look at how we can audit the server without compromising the interest of the other party.”
Marcos had sought the audit to determine if the change of script during the counting of votes altered the results of the elections.
Smartmatic backs out
Marcos on Thursday slammed Smartmatic officials for skipping the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) on the unauthorized script change in the transparency server of the Comelec.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the joint panel, cancelled the hearing because he said it would be useless to pursue the investigation without the presence of Smartmatic officials.
Smartmatic executives attended the proclamation of the 12 senators and winning party-list groups at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) as allegedly requested by the poll body.
Invited to the Senate hearing were Smartmatic Philippines Project Manager Marlon Garcia and General Manager Elie Moreno, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon and officials of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
“It is unfortunate that the hearing…was not able to push through because of a ‘last minute’ notice from Smartmatic that they could not attend,” Marcos said.
The senator said Smartmatic officials owe the public a clearer explanation, rather than making a “cursory excuse” why they cannot participate.
“Smartmatic has been quick to claim that such change was merely cosmetic and did not in any way alter the results of the elections. If that is so, we expect them to be the ones eager to take advantage of the opportunity which the hearing is providing to settle the issue,” Marcos said.
“I hope Smartmatic would not make similar excuses should another hearing be scheduled. Otherwise, it would give more ground to concerns that the alteration of the script did cause more than just a cosmetic change,” he added.
Other issues that were supposed to be discussed in the hearing were the malfunctioning vote counting machines, transmission problems and the accommodation of Smartmatic personnel at Novotel Hotel near the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.