We are now facing a national security crisis of monumental proportions whose implications go far beyond the viability of holding the May 9 election. But its first real casualty could very well be the actual non-holding of such election. There are many reasons for this. But the first important reason is that the state’s most important electoral resource has been irreparably damaged, and there can be no legitimate and credible election without it.
I refer to the official voters’ list in the hands of the Commission on Elections. Attacked by hackers, the list proved to have been padded by the Comelec from a total of 54.3 million to a bloated listing of 70 million. In the process of committing a crime, the hackers exposed a major crime at the Comelec.
When the website attack was first exposed, the list was identified as the resource downloaded by the hackers. The initial reactions to this breach focused on its implications to the integrity of the elections. However, when online IT publications and ICT professionals started calling it one of the most dangerous breaches in the digital age, the extent of the damage and the threat spilled far beyond the elections.
On Thursday, April 21, a site called wehaveyourdata.com started circulating in social media channels. This page claimed to contain the data downloaded from the Comelec, and was searchable. If one entered the Last Name, First Name and Mother’s Maiden Name in the respective fields, the site would show all available results.
In my case, I searched for Tatad Francisco Sarmiento and obtained two results. Clicking the first one, it reflected registered address at 44 Ifugao St., date of birth 4 October 39, and fingerprint fields. The fingerprints were not visible via my machine’s monitor but I am told that an off-the-shelf device can probably decipher that information with ease.
The site was quickly blocked by social networks such as Facebook. IT security experts had advised that the site could fish for the user’s passwords to social networks and email. It appears that the site’s ability to exploit is far more dangerous than the data it contains.
The personal data contained is what is required to register as a voter. However, the same data is commonly used to verify a person’s identity by banks, credit card companies and telecommunications firms. Adding to the problem, Overseas Voters have another bit of information contained in the Comelec database—their passport numbers.
In sum, all the information needed to stage identity theft has been released into a public and uncontrolled domain. This involves, as the hacked data have revealed, 70 million “voters.”
While it is too early to say anything definitive on this, it is likely that anything reliant on this personal information and biometric data can be or has been compromised. E-commerce, online banking, and credit cards are immediate concerns. Fraud in the use of internet, online gaming and even mobile phone accounts is possible.
The government will have to explain to the citizenry and perhaps other governments how this leak affects the integrity of passports, visas, and individual accounts in the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, Pag-IBIG and PhilHealth.
Security and integrity of applications for new services (whether government or private) are also affected. These consequences will remain a threat to the people, long after election season has ended——assuming the election could still be held.
Where is the data now?
It is certainly all over the place. After the wehaveyourdata.com site went viral, it was soon discovered that the data had made its way into sharing sites. Within hours, reports said the data was already present in “torrents.”
Torrents are file-sharing networks that formed the backbone of online piracy of films and music in the early 2000s. A file is broken up into many portions and seeded across members of the torrent’s network. If a user wants to download the file, the system sends him the requisite parts coming from the seeders who have the component files. In this way, not one seeder has the complete file and so none of the seeders are technically in violation of intellectual property law.
As of Friday, April 22, it seems the data is already available from the local pirates in places like Quiapo. The launch price was at P100,000, but has dropped to P50,000 in a day. We have no idea how many people are buying, but it seems there are enough people selling the data openly.
Between now and May 9 is but a few days. How do we expect this problem to go away, and allow us to hold a clean, honest, orderly and credible election? There are at least two problems here. First, the Comelec needs to protect itself from hackers; two, the voters need to protect themselves from the corrupt elements in the Comelec.
With respect to the first, if the hackers could hack the Comelec voters’ list, what else can they not possibly hack before, during, or after the election? How then do we protect the official files of our government? With respect to the second, if the corrupt operators at the Comelec could inflate the voters’ list from 54.3 million to 70 million, what else could they not fool around with?
In 2010 and 2013, the Comelec, together with its Venezuelan partner Smartmatic, manipulated the entire process, first by removing all the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, and by rigging the transmission system. They are about to do the same thing again, while padding the voters’ list, and presumably the turnout.
In the advanced voting of Overseas Filipino Workers, the first case of individual cheating has already been reported. Despite the use of the voter’s receipt, which is supposed to show accurately the name of the candidate one has voted for, one OFW has complained that another candidate appeared in place of the one she had voted for—Vice Presidential Candidate Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos, Jr. Bongbong is, of course, the candidate PNoy has threatened to lead a “people power” revolt against, should he win.
Given these conditions, it is not hard to understand why as the date draws near, more and more people seem to question the need to go through the election. They have no doubt that the Comelec, Smartmatic, and the various presidential players will try to cheat each other, and that none among them will try to prevent the cheating.
All are now jockeying to top the paid propaganda surveys, and are equally determined to win the “post-election” even if they lose the election. One is reported to have equipped his military group with AK47s in case he’s cheated in the official count.
Aquino has been no help at all. He wants to choose his own successor in order to escape criminal prosecution from his political enemies after he steps down on June 30. This has caused certain steps that have disfigured the Constitution, the rule of law and the actual conduct of the forthcoming election.
Although Aquino openly “supports” Mar Roxas, the LP standard bearer, he has also established a strong personal line to Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, the former American citizen of no known biological parentage, whom nine of the 15 members of the Supreme Court have declared “qualified” to run for President.
Aquino was reported to have personally intervened to make the nine Justices decide in her favor, even though she is not a natural-born citizen nor a 10-year resident of the country immediately preceding the May 9 election.
Aquino was reported to have met with Mrs. Llamanzares a week before the High Court junked the three Comelec rulings that disqualified her and cancelled her Certificate of Candidacy upon four petitions. The ponencia by Justice Jose Perez said the Comelec had no authority to pass upon her qualifications, even though the Court had long sustained Comelec’s authority to do so in many previous cases.
Malacañang and Mrs. Llamanzares have denied the “Poe-quino” meeting, but my original Palace sources have stood steadfast by their story, and some highly placed diplomatic sources have since confirmed it. As this story goes, Aquino has assured Mrs. Llamanzares that if by April 25, which means today, Roxas’s “survey” rating does not considerably improve, his financial and manpower support would shift to her.
And the next big “survey” is expected to be released today.
Because of Aquino’s and big business’ intervention, and the Justices’ failure to defend the Constitution, we now have a presidential race where 130 natural-born citizens and 10-year residents of the country have been summarily excluded as “nuisance candidate,” but a truly “nuisance candidate” whom Solicitor General Florin Hilbay claims is a “natural-born citizen by disputable presumption and statistical probability,” could be elected President.
A matter of honor
Mrs. Llamanzares is the first such person to run for the Philippine presidency. Not only is she a former American, she also has an American husband and family. That fact alone should have inhibited her from running, and others from supporting her candidacy. But no, this is how low we have sunk as a people and as a country. Unlike our neighbors, we do not care much for our national honor or sovereignty.
Mrs. Llamanzares says her husband and her children are all dual citizens, who would renounce their American citizenship if she gets elected to the presidency. They should have done so before she ran for the Senate. But the husband, Teodoro Misael “Neil” Llamanzares, may not even be a Filipino.
According to a Filipino paper in the US, and to the Daily Tribune here last Saturday, Neil is a natural-born American citizen of Filipino descent, but not a Filipino. He could have become a Filipino by going through the appropriate legal process when he reached the age of majority, but he did not.
He is, therefore, in the country as an alien, reportedly employed as ‘IT special consultant to the Chief Executive Adviser of San Miguel Corporation,” whom the media have identified as the principal financier of Mrs. Poe Llamanzares. There are allegations that Neil does not have an Alien Employment Permit, which is required by law.
Some sources describe him as potentially dangerous to our national security because of his reported previous background, as a member of the US Air Force, and later as an area manager for Scientific Applications International Corp., said to be a major contractor of the US National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. His interests are not those of a patriotic Filipino.
My lawyer Manuelito Luna, who represented me in my disqualification case against Grace before the Comelec and the Supreme Court, believes Neil’s case is inseparable from that of his wife. So we have decided to ask the Bureau of Immigration to look deeply into it. We shall be filing the appropriate petition today.
All these seem to make the May 9 election the last thing we need. The only problem is, what is the alternative? Do we have to extend the Aquino presidency? It would be unthinkable if Aquino, after causing all this mess, should end up benefiting from it. Since he has destroyed virtually all our institutions, the institutions that are still standing should now provide the appropriate alternative.
There are two such institutions: the religious and moral sector, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. With the possible help of the SC Justices who still care about the Constitution, these two institutions must now begin talking to each other on how to save this country.