OUR banner headline yesterday—“Election machines tampered with”—was shocking to newly arrived foreigners with a good impression of our country and Filipinos who naively think the days of election shenanigans have long been over. Actually, it was merely a reiteration by a living witness of a fact to those who know that Philippine elections continue to be a travesty of the most essential element of democracy.
The headline was an election watcher’s personal testimony of his and other people’s knowledge that 1,356 Smartmatic vote-counting machines (VCMs) that were in a warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna were used illicitly, illegally and criminally in the May 2016 elections that gave us President Rody Duterte, Vice-President Leni Robredo, or possibly Vice-President F. M. Marcos Jr. (if the latter’s election protest wins), 23 senators and hundreds of congressmen and other elected officials.
Each VCM uses a digital card, the SD card, on which the voters’ entries are recorded. Now we learn that something wrong had happened with one of the VCMs and that possibly many more strange things had occurred involving all the VCMs, not just the 1,356 in Santa Rosa.
Lawyer Glenn Chong, a former congressman representing Biliran and an activist with the NGO Tanggulang Demokrasya (TANDEM), said at least one SD card was tampered with. This, he said, was evidence the election system provided by Comelec contractor Smartmatic was “very much open to hijacking or sabotage.”
Chong pointed out that at an average of 500 votes per SD card, 5,000 extra SD cards, could have produced 2.5 million votes for favored candidates by switching machines.
“With 5,000 unnecessary extra SD cards accompanying 5,000 extra VCMs, switching bogus results contained in these extra SD cards with the genuine results under the guise of replacing malfunctioning VCMs is a feat that is all too easy to accomplish. All it requires is for the cheats to feign a malfunction in order to get a replacement machine with an SD card bearing bogus results in it,” he said.
Last October, in preparation for their return to Smartmatic, 127 VCMs were stripped of their SD cards. The SD cards were read and found to contain either intact or corrupted data.
On Monday, January 23, the Comelec scheduled the decryption of the 127 SD cards. But the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which is hearing the election protest of former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief Francis Tolentino against Senator Leila de Lima, ordered that 93 of these SD cards be preserved, so only 26 suspect SD cards were decrypted.
“Of these 26, 13 were found to be blank while the remaining 13 indeed contained data. The question arises as to how come an initial determination having been made three months ago that these 13 suspect SD cards contained data, they have suddenly become blank three months later. Definitely, someone is pulling dirty magic tricks right before our eyes,” Chong said.
Chong revealed that of the 13 suspect SD cards that contained data, at least one, with Serial No. BUF0631C, was tampered with.
Smartmatic’s representative, he noted, confirmed that they used only the Linux operating system in formatting SD cards. “Yet, this one showed evidence that it was accessed using a Windows operating system (OS). The Windows OS left its visible telltale marks on this SD card for everybody to see,” Chong said.
These strange things happened despite the Comelec’s assurances that it had custody every second of the SD cards from Santa Rosa, Laguna, to the poll body’s headquarters in Intramuros.
How could the SD cards that had been read and found to have data in them suddenly become blank when they reached Intramuros?
This, and the strange things that happen in every election, show how unreliable and, therefore, untrustworthy the Comelec has become.