COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon wants officials and employees of technology provider Smartmatic Corp. barred from leaving the country pending investigation of the “unauthorized” alteration of the script or hash code of the poll body’s transparency server at the command center of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
The transparency server shows the quick count of the results of the national and local elections.
Guanzon on Monday formally asked the commission en banc to immediately act on her request considering the urgency of the matter.
“In view of the investigation that will be conducted by the commission with respect to the issue on the change or alteration of the script or hash code of the Comelec transparency server, I urge the en banc, specifically through Commissioner Robert S. Lim, to write and direct Smartmatic Philippines to issue a memorandum and/or an order prohibiting their officers and employees from leaving the country until the investigation is terminated and concluded,” she said in a letter to the Comelec en banc.
“Considering further the public interest involved and the urgency of the matter, I encourage the en banc to act on the issue with haste and dispatch,” the commissioner added.
Guanzon had specifically mentioned Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia, who was responsible for the illegal introduction of the new script to the transparency server on the night of May 9, at a time when the election results had started coming in.
Garcia admitted having tweaked the server, but said that it was just a minor “cosmetic” change to correct a discrepancy discovered about the presence of certain question marks (“?”) in some candidate’s names where the letter “ñ” should have appeared.
Garcia, however, only made the admission days later after it was exposed by the camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., frontrunner in the race for Vice President.
According to Marcos, the new script started the “rather distinctive pattern” of vote padding and vote shaving that wiped out his almost one million lead over Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo of the administration Liberal Party.
Guanzon said Smartmatic breached protocol and should be held accountable for its unauthorized act.
The commissioner explained that the technology provider has no authority to tinker with the server and other election-related systems without prior authority, which is in the form of a formal resolution from the Comelec en banc.
“Smartmatic should have informed the commission en banc what is the problem, what are the consequences and then give us the recommendation on how to fix it. They should have not touched the program without our prior knowledge and our official consent,” she pointed out.
What Smartmatic did, Guanzon said, has cast doubt on the credibility and integrity of the May 9 elections.
“There may have been no damage in terms of alteration of the results. But there is certainly some effect because now the people are anxious and asking questions,” she added.
PPCRV Chairman Henrietta de Villa agreed with the observation of Guanzon, saying it is
hard to erase doubt in the mind of the people as a result of the incident.
Guanzon disclosed that Garcia had also tried to alter the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) of the Comelec at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) after making the “cosmetic” change but he was stopped by one of the commissioners.
The latest brouhaha prompted Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim to issue a memorandum on Friday that barred Smartmatic from accessing the CCS facility at the PICC, where canvassing of votes for senators and party-list groups is being conducted.