Int’l body should probe hashtag change – IT expert


Information Technology (IT) expert has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow an independent international body to investigate the changing of a script in the Automated Election System (AES), noting that the issue is too serious to ignore.

Rogelio Quevedo, a pioneer in IT law and also a former executive of telecom giant PLDT and member of the Comelec’s advisory body, on Monday noted that letting go of the controversy will be too costly for the Philippines because of its economic repercussions.

“I am not yet concluding there was cheating. What I am suggesting is to investigate the breach of protocol and if the alleged correction of character had triggered something. You cannot just dismiss the change outright. In the first place, you cannot touch anything there without the two pass codes that were being secretly kept by designated personnel of the Comelec and Smartmatic. You cannot change anything there without the permission of the en banc,” Quevedo, also a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, said in a news forum.

He added that Smartmatic did not follow protocol also during the 2010 and the 2013 elections.

“It seems Comelec had surrendered its function to Smartmatic,” Quevedo said.
He explained that a forensic probe could also resolve the controversy regarding the vice presidential race.

The camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had claimed that his lead over Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo diminished when the hash code was changed.

Quevedo likened the inscription of a new script to the Filipino-made ILOVEYOU virus that crippled 10 percent or 45 million Internet-connected computers worldwide in May 2000.

The cyber catastrophe caused $8.7 billion in damages and it took $15 billion to kill the virus.

Quevedo said if the Comelec will not heed his suggestion, IT experts or any candidate may go to the Supreme Court to compel the poll body to conduct a forensic investigation.

“Smartmartic admitted that it allowed introduction of a new script. The Comelec admitted that there was breach of protocol. Therefore, there is a probable cause to file the case,” he added.

If the change in the hash code triggered vote tampering, according to Quevedo, then there was a possibility that all votes of candidates were affected, including those in the presidential race.

“It just so happened that the lead of Mayor Rody Duterte was so big. But for the vice presidency, the lead was smaller,” he said using the nickname of the presumptive new President of the Philippines.

Quevedo clarified that the problem with the characters “?” and “ñ” does not matter at all “because what the machine reads is not the name but the shaded circle beside the name of the candidate.”

He explained that a forensic probe will reveal if the new script entered by Smartmartic operations chief Marlon Garcia triggered the tampering of votes.

“Forensic investigation will trace the effects of the new computer command. Either there was cheating or not, it will show,” Quevedo said.

He added that the Senate, Congress and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can conduct separate investigations.

“So, it is more safe, credible, and the results acceptable if the forensic probe is handled by an independent and international election certifying firm,” Quevedo said.

“The government spent P11 billion in 2010, P8 billion in 2013 and P9 billion for this year’s polls, the sum it will spend for the forensic investigation is nothing compared to retaining the integrity of the Comelec,” he added.

Quevedo said the integrity of the accredited poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) was also compromised because of the incident.

“The PPCRV could not say there was no anomaly because they were present when that interference in the transparency server was made and they allowed it,” he noted.

Meanwhile, De La Salle University Prof. Antonio Contreras also on Monday said the quick count conducted by the PPCRV showed different behaviors of data after the hash code was changed.

“After the inception of the new script, the one million lead of Marcos was erased in a few hours. The same happened to other vice presidential candidates except that of Rep. Robredo. We are not saying they cheated, what we have observed was that after the change of the hash code, votes for Robredo surged in a questionable manner,” he added.


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  1. deogracias respivio on

    simple explanation. by changing a computer command it does change everything. so please invistigate to the bottom of this.

  2. felimon viardo on

    The integrity of the election was compromised by smartmatic itself and the forensic investigation to be done must be charged to them to prove that the integrity of the system is intact.

  3. Let this Garcia be investigated to find who him to change hashtag he wiil not do it if u are only ordinary people. I had a feeling a very influential person who order him. I am not expert but the changing of hashtag have a significant for dagdag bawas. So we must audit this machine to find out this change. If found that change have cause the dagdag bawas charge Garcia for electoral sabotage and that include the persob who order.

  4. I agree! If it is not suspicious enough, changing something in the middle or when the process is ongoing. PPCRV (in fairness) should not agreed, that’s why they the “watchdog”–This is the problem in Philippines–it seems like with the “wave of a hand” all rules and regulations (which they swear to uphold) went down the drain, same goes with Comelec. I don’t know where the Philippines is heading?????

  5. The Comelec must take the high ground. Any incident that contaminated an sterile comelec computerization (see how they care about the source code, etc), however minute it is, Comelec must be the first one to investigate and make system transparent. Doing otherwise is a SUSPECT!

  6. michael richardson on

    The story about the mysterious question marks where there should have been the letter ‘n’ stinks..

    In all high level programming languages, Visual Basic, Visual C++, Python, etc) if you want to display a name, there is always a simple instruction like “print(name) – display(name) – print (“haw haw de carabau”) – display(“BongBong Marcos”).

    The fact that there were question marks in the display indicates that the items that were being displayed underwent some form of processing (vetting?) FIRST.

    The processing would have been done by some sub-routine buried deep inside the software.

    There could be many other elaborate sub-routines similarly buried most of them not used but all of them capable of being called by changing ONE program line.

    Allowing people to examine the Source Code is a joke. Any programmer will tell you that for any program containing more than a hundred or so lines, the only way to discover ‘bugs’ is to run it on a system, not scrutinize each line.

  7. Juan T. Delacruz on

    Rogelio Quevedo, were you the one suggested that this incident should be investigated by IT experts from all over the world? Independent IT experts that are not affiliated to COMELEC? I can be hired as a contractor and but I am afraid you will not be able to afford my consulting fee and secondly, I do not come cheap.

    You will be in a better position if you take the HARD DRIVE of the transparency server to the NBI, and they will read you everything and anything that was put into or retrieved from the server. Send representatives of any party to OBSERVE and make sure they are PROGRAMMERS, not plain IT experts. People must realize that Information Technology (IT) field is a very wide field and people that work in IT field require specialties such as Programming (what platform?), Network, Security, and so forth…

    NBI is a Government Agency and you do not pay their wages, such as hours consumed doing the job that you requested them, no per diem, no lodging and entertainment allowances. NBI has the experts and I know they can do the job. Once again, the NBI can read what kind of files are stored in the hard drive, and can answer questions such as, was there a manipulation of data? when it occurred? They will tell you everything how data was manipulated (if there are manipulations occurred) and everything that you wanted to know.

  8. I also would like to suggest that Sixto Brillantes should not be the representative of BongBong Marcos in the canvassing simply because he is defending the smartmatic and he is the one saying that it is just a minor issue. I hope BBM will take a cue on that statement of Brillantes and replace Brillantes asap. This guy will bring down BBM.

  9. Cruel-World on

    Since, its inception – did we received any good report about the COMELEC? This government agency does not how to count or tabulate, even with the help of Smartmatic contractor. They are good for “FRAUD” and fooling the Filipino people.

  10. Seattlelite on

    Bongbong’s team or the Comelec should hire expert in the US (MIT graduate or CALTech) to find out the real score. Another option is to manually count the votes. Even before the election, I know SMARMATIC will be used for cheating. You can just google about it. This was used in Venezuela by Hugo Chavez and also Latino countries. These countries are like ours, Spanish influence, mostly Catholics. Philippines should go back to manual counting like Germany, too much money has been wasted

  11. Agreed. Get an independent, specially international body to assess the outcome of the 2016 national election. There are indication that there are some discrepancies in the actual counting of the votes. Let us remove the our political situation fair, fast and quick.