SMARTMATIC must be investigated and prosecuted. For one reason or another, it has behaved as if Lucifer himself was wielding this UK-backed Venezuelan company’s power over our Commission on Elections and the entire Filipino electorate.
Ever since it became the veritable operator of our election system in 2010, it has raked in scores of billions while making a mess of our election process. Along the way, good, responsible lower officials and ordinary citizens have complained of Smartmatic’s mistakes and deliberate irregularities in its handling of our election system. But the complaints were ignored and the irregularities were found to be “okay” by Comelec commissioners, our high officials and even some of our courts.
It is good that now Smartmatic is “in deep trouble for its ‘unauthorized’ alteration of a computer script that automatically changed the hash code of the transparency server at the command center of the Church-based election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).”
Comelec, and even our columnist Gus Lagman (a former Comelec commissioner), are heaving a sigh of relief that the unauthorized alteration was “minor” one that does not affect the vote count and, therefore, the election result.
We don’t share their optimism.
We are not experts. But the first thing that came to our mind was the suspicion that if Smartmatic’s men can make unauthorized alterations—while the canvassing is in progress—without anyone getting angry and calling for blood and retribution, then they can also make alterations on the results without anyone noticing and protesting!
We are glad to have received from Rene Azurin, an expert and a convenor of the election watchdog AES WATCH, a statement exactly about the danger that we suspected.
Below is the statement in full.
Statement on the Smartmatic script change
Everyone totally misses the point about a Smartmatic person changing a line in the canvassing program to replace a “?” character into an “ñ”. The essential point in this matter is not that the change was “minor”; the crucial issue is that a Smartmatic technician had access to the server program while the canvassing was going on. This is a serious security breach and should not have been allowed. If that technician can change one character, he can change other things as well.
Indeed, one can speculate that the so-called “minor change” might have been deliberately intended to act as a trigger to launch a sleeping worm or Trojan horse already embedded in the system and programmed to make major changes, including the altering of vote counts. Thus, the Smartmatic spokesman could claim with a straight face that the script change he made was “minor”, while neglecting to say that this trivial change was the trigger for another script that would make major outcome-altering changes.
In fact, the Smartmatic action is expressly prohibited under our Automated Election System Law (RA 9369). Section 35(c) prohibits “gaining or causing access to using, altering, destroying or disclosing any computer data, program, system software, network, or any computer-related devices, facilities, hardware or equipment, whether classified or declassified.” Such acts are prohibited whether or not any election results are affected.
Among the numerous deficiencies in the conduct of the two prior automated elections, these very similar incidents are worth bearing in mind:
(1) In 2010, a Smartmatic technician cavalierly 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
(2) 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.
(Uncorrected, that surge would have produced an aggregate vote far exceeding the total number of registered voters.) These incidents indicate major flaws in the Smartmatic system that our Commission on Elections has been so bent on foisting on the Filipino people.
This now puts the entire canvassing process in serious doubt. The integrity of the automated results can now be reasonably questioned.
RENÉ AZURIN Author, Hacking Our Democracy, and Convener, AES Watch