“If COMELEC was really in command of the May 2016 elections, why can’t it open the supposedly ‘unused’ or ‘stand by’ SD Cards from the past election? This is highly suspect.”
Thus raised Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, spokesperson of Sen. Bongbong Marcos, when COMELEC failed to open the contents of 26 “unused” or “standby” Vote Counting Machine (VCM) SD Cards during a scheduled “decryption” activity in their main office on Monday afternoon.
Decryption is a term used in the IT circle to open data that was previously “encrypted” to conceal its contents and to prevent it from being tampered with. Only a person, or a machine with a matching “digital key”, can decrypt data.
“For us, this is quite disheartening and highly irregular. The process of decrypting SD cards have been done so many times in the past and so now we’re wondering why COMELEC can’t seem to do it now,” said Atty. Rodriguez.
Rodriguez furthered that their camp’s IT Team offered several explanations why the COMELEC failed to decrypt the SD cards.
“One explanation could be that Smartmatic and COMELEC did a sloppy job in the tool that was supposed to decrypt the data. Second, the SD cards could contain software that is different than the authorized one; and third: that the SD card was tampered with. Any of the reasons raised are a clear violation of our election laws. COMELEC should answer these questions because they cast doubt on the credibility of the elections,” Rodriguez stressed.
Tampered SD Cards?
Another possibility why the SD cards cannot be decrypted is that the SD Cards were tampered with.
“During Monday’s decryption activity, our IT representatives asked the representative from Smartmatic what operating system they used in formatting the SD cards and he said that they used ‘Linux’ all throughout. However in one of the cards, they found a program that could only appear when using the ‘Windows Operating System’ and not ‘Linux’ as maintained by Smartmatic. This could mean that the SD card that was supposedly “unused” or “on standby” could have been tampered with,” Rodriguez asserted.
It will be recalled that the COMELEC was supposed to conduct the decryption of 13 SD cards found to have data. The 13 were part of the original 127 SD cards set aside during the stripping of 1,356 unused VCMs last October 2016 after data were found in them. The other SD cards were not included in the decryption because they were excluded by the Senate Electoral Tribunal on motion by former MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino due to his election protest before the Tribunal.
Because of these discrepancies, the representative from the Presidential Electoral Tribunal decided it would prudent to postpone the decryption activity to enable all the parties to come up with a solution on how to remedy the situation with the approval from the Tribunal itself.
"Everyone knows that SD cards from an unused VCM should be empty. The fact that the SD cards were proven to contain data in them bolsters our position that there’s something fishy going on.” Rodriguez also said the data in the SD Cards also supported their contention that the VCMs should not have been opened or stripped until after the conclusion of Marcos' election protest at the Presidential Electoral Protest (PET).
Earlier, Rodriguez explained that because data was found in many of the SD cards that were retrieved from supposedly unused VCMs, this was proof that fraud had been committed in the May elections.
“How can more than 120 SD cards have data in them when they came from VCMs kits that were not used? This is highly questionable. This also supports our contention that the VCMs should be preserved until the election protest is concluded in the PET because they represent an important aspect in the protest,” he stressed.
BBM’s camp will ask COMELEC to explain this development.