Is Smartmatic selling more than just VCMs?

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Whatever the outcome of Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s investigation on the unauthorized changes made by Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (Smartmatic) in the transparency server used by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), it is undeniable that the Venezuelan-owned company committed a serious violation not only of its supply contract but also of the country’s electoral laws.

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If only to show that our laws and rules are not to be trifled with, the harshest penalty possible ought to be imposed on Smartmatic – perpetual disqualification from any Philippine elections. After all, there are many (and bigger) providers of electronic voting systems in the world other than Smartmatic.

Comelec chairman Andy Bautista’s explanation (surprisingly echoing Smartmatic’s excuse for lack of a better alibi) that the correction of the computer script of the Comelec transparency server was merely a “cosmetic change” and did not affect the poll results, is at best ill-informed and speculative, and at worst misleading.

Well-intentioned or not, the supposedly “minor” change does not justify Smartmatic tampering with the electronic canvassing system, more so while the bulk of the voting results were being transmitted to the Comelec servers.

The law and the rules are very clear – Any change in the automated election system should have the approval of the Comelec en banc. It did not matter whether the supposed script change was a harmless alteration or not.

Smartmatic’s unauthorized tweaking of Comelec’s computer system is a classic case of the cure being worse that the disease. Even if the modification involved a line of code to replace the “?” character with an “ñ” character (or so they say), the damage it wrought on our electoral process is immeasurable.

With the press of the (Enter) key, Smartmatic shattered not only the so-called “integrity” of Comelec’s electronic canvassing system but also the credibility of the entire automated election process. Although Smartmatic claims it only made a minor change in the program, we’ll probably never know if anything else was altered.

Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that Smartmatic was able to access the computer system and modify the program in the server right under the very nose of Comelec. Apparently, Comelec’s Bautista did not even know about the script change until after the incident blew up in media. That the poll body was the last to know about Smartmatic’s unauthorized changes was confirmed by Comelec commissioner Chris Lim who admitted that “…the change was made and the parties were only informed after the change was made.”

Based on reports, it was representatives of the political parties United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) who first noticed that the hash codes of the file containing the voting results did not match.

The hash code – composed of a sequence of letters and numbers – is the digital signature of any computer program. Since all files generated by the program should carry this unique code, it is often used by computer analysts to check whether the program has been tampered with. Any change in the program, even changing or deleting a single character, results in a different hash code or hash value.

When PPCRV’s IT director asked the Comelec-Smartmatic technicians “to explain the discrepancy in the hash codes,” it was only then that they were told that Smartmatic engineers made an “adjustment” to the program.

This only proves that the supposed safeguards of Comelec can be easily circumvented by a conspiracy of two: a Smartmatic and Comelec technician who both have the passwords to the computer servers. It also shows that the country’s electronic voting and counting system can be hacked without much effort and without fear of detection.

It is not unexpected therefore that many folks remain skeptical about the vote count, especially in the close vice-presidential race between senator Bongbong Marcos and Leni “Daang Matuwid” Robredo. For one, our co-anchor in the “Executive Session” radio show in DZRH (666AM), Teddy Boy Locsin, asks: “Why is it that the results of the vice-presidential race keep on changing but the senatorial race was always the same?”

In Lamitan, Basilan, Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) voters expressed outrage after their votes allegedly vanished, with Robredo garnering all 595 votes while all other presidential bets, including INC-backed Marcos, got zero votes. If that were true, it means even Marcos’ poll watchers didn’t vote for him. Hmmm.

We could overlook Smartmatic’s serious breach of protocol as a one-off. But this is not the first time Smartmatic has been guilty of tampering with the servers while the canvass is on-going. As IT expert and fellow Times columnist Rene Azurin points out, “in 2010, a Smartmatic technician…accessed the canvassing program to change the number of voters, after the tally showed an erroneous 256 million as the total number of registered voters…and in 2013, a Smartmatic technician accessed the canvassing server to correct a script that produced an astonishing 12 million vote surge barely two hours into the canvassing…”

All the while, Smartmatic has been marketing its products to other developing countries, which explains the presence of an Indonesian observer last May 9th. The recent national polls definitely provided the stage for Smartmatic to showcase its capabilities to potential government customers.

Which raises the question: Is Smartmatic merely selling vote counting machines (VCMs)? Or is it also selling its apparent expertise at last minute “tweaks” of computerized voting systems? Just asking.

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19 Comments

  1. Since the system was tampered and credibility of the results is in question…. we should have another election asap …or we are at the mercy of questionable leaders whom we never have voted in the first place….

  2. bontong hininga on

    Ang smartmatic ay venezuelan company so katulad ng mga latin american countires mayroon din silang “enye” sa alphabet nila katulad ng pilipinas. Them being smart sadyang hindi nila isinama sa programming code and letra na ito para bandang huli mayroon silang alibi na magkaroon ng cosmetic hange from “?” to “enye”. ang galing magkano kaya ang ibinayad ni abnoy para kina robredo, drillon, villaneuva at delima?

  3. What if a trojan horse virus was activated by the “cosmetic change” affecting the poll results with a “dagdag-bawas” program for the VP electronic canvassing

  4. ernie del rosario on

    Why ? Ask Melo, Brillantes and Bautista. Then ask the next-level officials involved in the AES project. Then ask the different JCOC/CSER members spanning the three past automated elections.

  5. That is the problem with most old people, they are largely clueless when it comes to computers and information technology. They just can’t wrap their heads around it.

    I just hope that Chairman Bautista allows a systems audit if only to dispel the notion that Smartmatic was putting one over us. What’s so unwieldy with a systems audit that some people are so against it?

  6. Leni Robredo would have conceded defeat graciously if it was the other way around. But for someone hungry to recoup the family’s lost ultimate glory and power, D30 might not even be able to serve a full 6-year term if BBM prevails. I HOPE NOT!

    • Leodegardo Pruna on

      Leni feels that she is too close to becoming vice president, by hook or by crook. With the results coming from overseas voting and absentee voting in and with Bongbong on top, those are indications that somewhere in here, the Comelec and PPCRV and Smartmatic were up to messing the election thinking that Plan B will have to be mobilized. But, Du30 came out way way off the other candidates because the people did not believe in “daan matuwid”. Note that Mar was not fully supported because of the perception that he will lose. Leni I hope would come to her senses and stop dreaming. She should do what the two Aquino presidents failed to do to bring justice to the family for the lost of the DILG head which remains a mystery. God save the Philippines.

  7. Ang kakapal ng mga mukha nyo, AQUINO, ROXAS, ROBREDO, DRILON, COMELEC. Mga taksil kayo sa bayan.. Magkano ang nyo ipinagbili ang kinabukasan ng Pilipinas sa kamay ng mga dayuhan.. Dapat kayo ang unahin ni Duterte na bitayin sa Quirino Grandstand. Mga Hudas!!!

  8. If this is valid then why do we have to stick with this sneaky smartmatic for so long now?

  9. Post has code introduction VCM reported tallies (graph) were no longer non linear and random. The became linear (graph) and no longer random. There is no doubt that SMARTMATIC’s HOCUS PCOS is alive and well.

    We must demand a complete optical rescanning and recounting of every ballot cast no matter how long it takes. At the moment due to the actions of SMARTMATIC we have a FAILED election on our hands. The remedy is the rescanning and recounting of all ballots cast.

  10. Mark Torres on

    Sir, I suspect, smartmatic also sold their services to interested parties to change the results in their favor. This was true in 2010, 2013, and this election.

    What do people need to do to get this thing done? – finding out the truth…

    Do we still need to wait for DU30 to order the investigation when he assumes office? Do the present officials have balls to do what is right?

    I guess, it’s really Plan B. Alvarez must watch out for those LP turncoats. They are just mustering their momentum before executing Plan B.

    • Need a law enforcement agency that will act on complaints of violations of the law, which means it will not get done in the Philippines.

      Every agency is subservient to President Aquino.
      Anytime Aquino, his allies heading the agencies like Comelec violate the law the enforcement agencies (Ombudsman, Dept of Justice) look the other way.

      It’s one big Padrino system (patronage in the Filipino culture and politics is the value system where one gains favor, promotion, or political appointment through family affiliation (nepotism) or friendship (cronyism), as opposed to one’s merit)

      No agency will act against the ruling party, never have and never will.

      Want justice ? Move to a different country. The Philippines is hopelessly corrupt, always has been, always will be.

  11. Indonesia should buy the Smartmatic VCMs. The machines appear to work well and have been rigorously tested in the Philippines thru the elections and found to be effective at counting the votes quickly. Technology has advanced the Philippines.

    The Smartmatic techs just need to follow protocol and be monitored more closely during elections by a countries own IT watchdogs. Smartmatic’s other potential customers will learn something from the innocent breach of protocol.

    Tiz a simple matter.

  12. Whatever the outcome of Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s investigation on the unauthorized changes made by Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp
    ———————————

    Let me save you some time.

    Comelec will support smartmatic and say the changes didn’t effect the vote totals.

    • That’s part of Plan B! The people are not complaining about the election in general per se but only the VP counting of votes which to every one is obviously suspect. The only person in the Philippines who keeps on smiling up to this writing is President Aquino. By hook or by crook BBM must not win – that’s his motto. And true enough Plan B works so well as it was planned and exposed prior to the election.

      Every time I see Ms. Robredo’s photos on the news she always has a wide smile as if saying to herself – I can’t believe I won!

  13. We are afraid that it will be very difficult to delete the name of Smartmatic from the Comelec, why, because the Comelec never had it so good when the Smartmatic stealing machines entered the country. Sixto Brillantes had never had it so good, also the retired Comelec associates as well as James Jimenez and the rest of them. Yes, the best decisions is get rid of the Smartmatic, once and for all a look for better, bigger and cheaper providers that is if the election laws will not be dumped. Apparently, Andy Bautista is on the side of the Smartmatic crooks and will fight for it’s retention and he will fight thru his last sweat block any attempt to replace Smartmatic.