THE CAMP of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was surprised to learn directly from Smartmatic that it used several servers apart from those sanctioned by the Commission on Elections during the May 2016 elections.

He cited the admission of Marlon Garcia, head of the Technical Support Team of Venezuela’s Smartmatic, that aside from the three servers sanctioned by the Comelec in the transmission of votes under the Automated Election System (AES), there also existed a “meet me room” where several servers were housed.

“This is a good day for Senator Marcos’ quest for truth because they (Smartmatic) finally admitted the existence of several other servers aside from the three legally authorized servers,” Rodriguez told reporters after a hearing on Thursday at the Manila Prosecutor’s Office.

Smartmatic lawyer George Aquino denied there were major changes at the height of the transmission of votes on May 9 when the almost one-million margin of Marcos was overtaken by his rival, then Camarines Sur representative and now Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.

He said it was a simple change in a typographical error, changing to “?” to “ñ.”

“The media noticed the error, so technical people corrected it,” said Aquino.

Aquino said the correction of the typographical error was not connected with the results.

He also denied that there was manipulation of votes.

“The votes from the Voting Counting Machines were sent to the Central Server and the Transparency Server. When they reached the Transparency Server the votes were not transferred to anywhere. So, there was no way to manipulate it,” Aquino pointed out.

Secret servers

Marcos’ camp earlier revealed the existence of a “Fourth Server” or the “Queue Servers” that had been kept secret from the public by both the Comelec and Smartmatic.

Rodriguez pointed out that instead of the votes being transmitted directly to the three servers, namely the Municipal Board of Canvassing Server, the Comelec Server and the Transparency Server, the results were first coursed through “Queue Servers.”

This was not divulged to the public and was never subjected to a source code review unlike the other servers used in the elections, said Rodriguez.

He added that there were no poll watchers for these servers.

Ever since the camp of Marcos made the disclosure about the existence of the “Queue Servers” last May, both the Comelec and Smartmatic have been tight-lipped on its existence.

However, during the clarificatory hearing at the Manila Prosecutors’ Office on the complaint for violation of the Cybercrime Law filed by former Abakada representative Jonathan de la Cruz against Smartmatic and Comelec personnel, Garcia admitted that there existed a “meet me room” where the several servers were located.

When the prosecuting panel started asking questions, information technology (IT) expert Ethan Angeles explained that the “Queue Server” was a system wherein all the election data would be first consolidated and processed before releasing the same to the public. It was only then when Garcia denied that there was such a server.

Rodriguez said the admission of the existence of several other servers in the AES validated their earlier contention that indeed Smartmatic was not forthright about the details of the system it employed during the elections, putting the integrity of the May polls under a cloud of doubt.

Simply stated, the election results which were broadcast to the public did not come directly from the transparency servers, as mandated by law.

Instead, the results were first transmitted to a “Queue Server” where they were “consolidated and processed” and it was this “Queue Server” that sent the data to the so-called transparency servers.

‘Blunder’

Charged with violation of Section 4(a) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or R.A. 10175 were Garcia, a Venezuelan national; Elie Moreno, an Israeli national and project director; Neil Baniqued and Mauricio Herrera, both members of the Technical Support Team, and Comelec IT experts led by Rouie Peñalba, Nelson Herrera and Frances Mae Gonzalez who were all assigned to the Information Technology Department.

Aside from acknowledging the existence of the other servers, Garcia also admitted that he introduced changes in the Transparency Server and that he did so with the concurrence of Peñalba.

Rodriguez pointed out, however, that Garcia’s claim was inconsistent with the earlier pronouncements made by Peñalba in an urgent memorandum he submitted before the Comelec, wherein he stated that he never authorized the change in the script because he did not have any authority to give consent.

“During the clarificatory hearing, Garcia admitted that even without any authority, he changed the script in the system. He committed another blunder when he told the panel that he got his authority from Comelec employee Rouie Peñalba. Based on Rouie Peñalba’s urgent Memorandum dated May 11, however, he expressly stated two things – one, that he did not authorize Marlon Garcia to tinker with the system and second, that he himself did not have any authority from the Comelec to allow anybody to tinker with the system,” he pointed out.

Rodriguez also lauded the decision of the investigating panel hearing the violation of the Cybercrime Law not to allow Smartmatic to motu proprio make an audiovisual presentation on the AES since this was against accepted procedures.

When the hearing ended, the investigating panel ordered the respondents to submit their rejoinder and answer questions raised by the complainant on July 29, after which all parties will be given 10 days to submit their respective replies.