Inquirer.net : Comelec: No way hackers can affect May 9 poll results

23 March 2022

By Dona Z. Pazzibugan | Inquirer.net

MANILA, Philippines — Commissioner Marlon Casquejo of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured the public on Tuesday that there was “no way” hackers could manipulate the results of the May 9 polls.

The poll body conducted a demonstration of the automated elections system at Diamond Hotel in Pasay City with poll watchdogs and media participating in and observing the process.

“Our VCMs (vote-counting machines) are stand-alone at the time of voting so there’s no way that anyone using any device or with hacking knowledge can insert any results in the VCMs,” Casquejo said in a news conference after the test run.

Using test ballots, the participants cast their votes and observed the transmission of the mock election results to Comelec servers for canvassers.

According to Casquejo, VCMs are able to transmit results within seconds to the Comelec central server, backup server and transparency server.

“So there’s no way a hacker can manipulate the results during that period of seconds. This ‘hacking’ incident, what they say ‘[data] breach,’ has nothing to do with the election process [on] May 9,” he said.

Casquejo was referring to the issue raised by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Imee Marcos in Thursday’s joint congressional oversight committee hearing.

According to Marcos, an employee of elections provider Smartmatic allowed a group of hackers to copy election data from a laptop issued by the company.

But the Comelec insisted that its database was not hacked while Smartmatic said the poll body never shared election data with them.

Casquejo stressed that there were safeguards against “rogue VCMs” that would try to transmit manipulated election results to Comelec servers.

After an alleged incident of vote-buying was reported on Tuesday in Dasmariñas, Cavite, the poll body said it would form a task force to investigate such cases.

“Definitely, the Comelec can investigate. The Comelec can always direct its personnel to submit reports and we will have a task force to take immediate action,” Commissioner George Garcia said.

He and other officials of the poll body were asked to react to news reports that Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, who was seeking reelection, gave away cash prizes at a campaign rally he had hosted for presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and running mate Davao Mayor Sara Duterte earlier in the day.

Garcia, a former election lawyer before his appointment to the poll body, said he could not comment on the incident involving Remulla since he had yet to see the video of the incident.

“As a former practitioner, the problem is usually a politician will get a very good lawyer who will see loopholes in the law. So it’s easy for people to say it’s vote-buying but when [the case is] appreciated by the commission, it’s not vote-buying after all,” he added.

“We will not immediately jump to conclusions. But definitely, and this is a commitment of the commission, we will look into that, not only this incident you mentioned, but many such incidents monitored by the commission,” Garcia said.