Never again! …to Smartmatic


By this time, only the truly uninformed would still find Smartmatic’s combination of PCOS/VCM (Precinct Count Optical Scan/Vote Counting Machine) and CCS (canvassing and consolidation system) an acceptable solution to the automation of Philippine elections. We used this solution in the last three National and Local Elections (NLE) and in all three, we experienced “glitches” and lack of transparency that convinced us of the system’s unreliability and its vulnerability to tampering.

Consider the following incidents:
During the canvassing of the 2008 ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) election, several precincts in Wao, Lanao del Sur, showed zero results. When this was reported to Smartmatic, a technical person in the company accessed the machines in Wao and made the correction … from Manila! This is the first proof that Smartmatic can change the results in any region, at will, from anywhere in the country.

Exactly one week before the 2010 elections, Smartmatic’s systems test yielded erroneous results. This triggered the replacement of supposedly “all CF cards” installed in the 82,000 PCOS machines. Many found it difficult to believe that they were able to do this successfully – i.e., replace those many CF cards in a span of one week. But if they failed to do so, how do we explain the fact that they were able to announce election results that came close to what the surveys published? One possibility stood out: program the results to follow the surveys. Hmm … not all that difficult to do.

In the same elections, the number of registered voters hit the 250 million mark at the start of canvassing – way, way beyond the 40-50 million actual count. Smartmatic again accessed the erroneous count and changed it. Yet another proof that they can easily alter election process figures.

In just the first two hours of canvassing of the 2013 Senatorial elections, Senator Poe garnered more than 10 million votes – and was wildly increasing by the minute. Again, Smartmatic accessed the system and altered the count progress to a more reasonable rate, once more proving that they could tamper with the results at will.

Toward the end of the canvassing in 2013, the votes went up and down by the millions, without any explanation being given by Smartmatic. Nor by Comelec. What? The voters did not have a say in the results?! What did Joseph Stalin say? “It is not the people who vote that count, it is the people who count the votes.”

Still in 2013, when the final results were published, they showed some ratios that were difficult to believe: the total votes of the administration candidates represented 60% of all the votes; those of the dominant opposition, 30%; and those of the rest of the candidates, 10% — in all the regions and in all the 16 canvassing reports. As if the results were pre-programmed.

During the canvassing of the May, 2016 NLEs, a Smartmatic technical person accessed the system, without proper authority, as usual, and modified the script to “supposedly correct” the “ñ” that printed as a “?”. Was that all that he changed? We don’t know. But the fact is that he could have made any alteration that he so desired.

The above includes only those violations committed by Smartmatic that show how easy it is for it and its partners and men to change the results of the elections. Smartmatic, after all, did not comply with many other requirements, both of the law, R.A. 9369, and of the bid specifications. Yet, they are getting away scot-free because Comelec has been allowing them to do that!

But should we, the voters, allow them? They have the power, even if not the authority, to control the results of our elections. And many suspect that they did act. But the problem with the Smartmatic system is that it is not transparent (intentionally, I suppose) and therefore it is so difficult to catch any wrongdoing.

I strongly recommended a step in the last elections that would have incorporated some transparency to the system – and the Comelec agreed to it – but Smartmatic did not implement that step properly. Was that intentional so we won’t be able to catch the tampering that they might have done during the canvassing?

What exacerbates the problem is that Comelec not only allows Smartmatic to get away with all the violations and non-compliance of the requirements, the Commission also keeps on favoring this vendor with all the contracts they could possibly award. That’s a lot worse than abetting a crime!

In addition to this, the winning candidates – senators and congressmen – do not bother to investigate these anomalies because they won … and they probably do not want to jeopardize that situation.

What this all boils down to is that a vendor – a foreign group at that – can control the result of our elections, and could have done so, while making tons of money in the process. That’s why this vendor loves it here! It’s truly more fun in the Philippines. For Smartmatic, especially.


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  1. Nowadays the dogs are mostly barking at their own shadows… or its like someone who is touting on their own shadow announcing to the public there is a ghost arround.

    They cant do anything to stop. Because they knew they are the one who is doing the wrong thing. So now… when a patriotic guy came into the position they were really barking on him displaying their signals of dislikes.

    Must Stop… go.. Du30…go…

  2. Amnata Pundit on

    Let me repeat this for the nth time: If the president today were Marcos, and this very same Smartmatic is what he is using, do you think the American-led West, the Ayala-led Makati Business Club and the Catholic Church will not raise hell? Since this triad are the real pillars of this 30-year old yellow regime, then by their silence you can see who are really sodomizing the Filipino people and in broad daylight at that. To bring down the yellow regime, bury Smartmatic alive.

  3. Juan T. Delacruz on

    The author of this article, Mr. Lagman is confused and at his ignorance of Computers is showing. Don’t worry Mr. Lagman, ignorants can be educated but stupid can’t. Let me help you to get your shit together because you’re blowing hot air.

    The PCOS / VCM in Wao, Lanao del Sur in 2008 election showing zero results was “remotely” corrected from Manila by Smartmatic technician. Here is the technical explanation: The PCOS Machine in Lanao Del Sur does not have the address where to send the votes stored in its ROM Memory. After the Smartmatic intervention, the machine started to send those votes in Manila. You suspected that manipulation of votes stored in PCOS machine has occurred during the transmission, di ba?

    Manipulation of the votes stored in ROM Memory during the transmission cannot, will not, shall not, never happened because the nature of the storage device, it is a monolithic integrated circuit and it is in a Read Only Memory (ROM), common language is for your eyes only.

    Pertaining to CF Cards, you are lost as usual. CF cards or Compact Flash cards are memory storage devices used mainly in electronic portable devices, based on Serial ATA interface, than Parallel interface. ATA= Advanced Technology Attachment. This has a lot to do with transmission mode used to transfer data from point A to point B.

    Lastly, the COMELEC is encouraging anybody to file a FORMAL complaints in relation of the machine (AES), Smartmatic, or COMELEC. The criminal complaint filed by Bonbong’s group was a JOKE, a BIG JOKE.

    • Nice technical jargons, yet this commentor missed too many points

      First, you seemed to admit that it is possible to allow “remote” manipulation of data in VCM from Manila. This is a very serious security flaw, especially if remote console/shell was enabled on production device. While the author of this article stressed that the votes were manipulated (or manufactured) “locally” in Manila.

      Then you said that votes “reside” in ROM. Wait, how can it store the votes there that got updated on every ballot feeds? You know that it is “eyes only”, right? So, it turns out that the votes will usually be stored somewhere that have read/write capability like CF cards.

      And speaking of CF cards, with lots of technical jargon, since when did it becomes responsible for transmission? It is just a storage, right? The one who transmit are modems (dial-up, GSM, GPRS) or Ethernet adapter (via DSL/ADSL modem). The software in VCM read the data in CF cards then passed to the modem/Ethernet for the actual electronic transmission. The only “transmission” of CF cards is physically carrying it.

  4. After all those obvious manipulations and machinations occurred, why did the lawmakers not do any investigation, in aid of legislation, in order to ferret out the truth?

  5. Pilipino Ako on

    “xxx proof that Smartmatic can change the results in any region, at will, from anywhere in the country.”

    “xxx Was that all that he changed? We don’t know. But the fact is that he could have made any alteration that he so desired.”

    Mr. Lagman, you seemed to be singing a different tune now. In an interview just after the May 9 elections, you were very sure that nothing was affected by the changes in scripts. The Filipino people already knew that the reason for the alteration was to make changes in the results. I respected and believed whatever you said before the elections. But you lost your credibility after that interview.

  6. But of course, the happiest persons in these Smartmatic contracts are the Comelec officials and the few officers who are directly in contact with Smartmatic.