Manila Bulletin - Comelec denies voters database claim

6 August 2018

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola | Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) denied claims that there has been a sale of voters database following the hacking of its website in 2016.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez clarified that the allegations presented in the hearing of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated election system (JCOC-AES) Monday do not prove the alleged selling of voters’ information.

But Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he has heard of the claims, which, he said, usually involve local government units, wherein voters’ data were supposedly sold to candidates.

“Kailangan meron silang kopya ng voters list. For every barangay, every street, ‘Yong mga leaders nila alam kung sino ang boboto sa kanila at hindi. So kung identified nila yung mga hindi boboto sa kanila, at meron kang connection katulad niyan, na may mga rogue na tao na taga-Comelec, or meron namang ika nga ay dealer lang for Comelec personnel, magagawa nila yun,” Sotto told reporters at the sidelines of the committee hearing.

“Pwedeng yung mga botante ililipat ng presinto, ‘yong mga alam nilang mga kalaban nung kandidato, ‘yong kandidatong bumabayad, ililipat ng presinto. Pag dating ng election day, hindi niya makita ang presinto niya kung saan siya napunta. Madalas gawin yun. Ilang daan-daan ‘yan kung gawin,” he explained.

Sotto said Nueva Ecija and Iloilo were among those where the alleged sale of voters information happen.

The claim was floated at the hearing by a certain Glenn Chong, who said that a “well-known political personality” handed him a video clip recording the supposed activity by election officers in Maragondon, Cavite.

Heeding Sotto’s request, he presented photos from the supposed clip showing the computer of an election officer (EO) which screen allegedly bared the biometrics of voters. The biometrics, he claimed, were sourced from the breach of the Comelec website in March 2016.

Jimenez, however, disputed the allegation. He said the voters’ biometrics shown in the computer screen were part of their voter verification system.

“Dati noong 2015, sa local, sa EO’s office, pwede mong i-check kung ikaw ay rehistradong botante na. In fact, bago ka magparehistro, titignan sa computer ‘yong records mo. Definitely kasama ‘yong biometrics, and we think ‘yon yong nalitratuhan. Na ‘yong nalitratuhan ay hindi ‘yon actually galing sa na-hack,” Jimenez said.

“Again, based on the picture, that does not seem to be true,” he added.

Jimenez also stressed that the verification system had been removed from the EO’s office since the 2016 elections. Since then, only provincial election supervisors and officials at higher levels are authorized to access the program, he said.

In his update before the JCOC-AES on the hacking incident, Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr. maintained that the voters’ biometrics, particularly the photos, fingerprints, and signature, were not included in the information leak in 2016.

What was in the website, Tolentino recalled, were “public information” such as the voters’ names, addresses, birthday and precinct numbers which are used for its “Find My Precinct” feature.

He, nonetheless, assured that there will be no more repeat of the hacking as he enumerated the measure undertaken by Comelec and cited the help of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“We are now being hosted by the DICT, unlike before when we just hosted our own website. And I think Undersecretary [Eliseo] Rio will be proud to say that as of now, no one has been able to get into their system,” Tolentino said, responding to a query by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“Aside from that, your honor, we have backup of database. And it’s separate, it’s not connected to any website,” he added.

Tolentino answered in the affirmative when asked by Trillanes if “we’re protected and we can respond accordingly in case of future attacks.”

Tolentino also noted that the hacking did not affect the results of the 2016 elections since the website is not connected to their automated elections system.

Sotto lauded the DICT’s intervention, saying it will aid in overseeing the computerized system of elections.

As for the alleged sale of voters database in Cavite, Jimenez said they will look into it and along with other claims of election fraud.

“I think there will be a meeting between the CAC and the Comelec towards the end of the week. So they will come up with a answer for that. Tinatanong dito and hindi nman makakuha ng buong sagot kasi nga, maraming dahilan,”
he said.

Jimenez said the Comelec has also continued to clean its ranks of EOs “who take advantage.”