The Manila Times - 2019 elections: ‘Laway’ of Venezuelans or ‘talino’ of Filipinos? (Part 4)

14 February 2018

By Nelson Celis | The Manila Times 

Part 4

EPISODE V (2013). Early morning of May 13, 2013, the AES Watch gathered at its office at the University of the Philippines where they monitored the conduct of the midterm elections that would be using the automated election system (AES). One of the problems reported was the presence still of double/multiple voter registrants. This could have been caused by the uncleansed database of the Voter Registration and Identification System (VRIS) since it was initiated in the late 1990s. The VRIS slowly evolved into what is now called the Voter Registration System (VRS). On the positive side, the VRS appears to be effective as it had detected multiple voter registrations. But not good enough as cleansing was not done regularly! Unfortunately, the database was further exposed to a hacking incident (ComeLeak) just weeks before the 2016 elections. As to how clean is it now, Comelec should update the public on its current state. Let’s hope that it has already recovered from the devastation of the ComeLeak fiasco.

The night after the elections, an hour after precincts had closed, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) admitted that they were releasing the wrong senatorial count—they were too high in relation to the actual number of voters in the precincts. So, PPCRV decided to stop its partial and unofficial count of the senatorial race. Ergo, Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia came to the picture to save the embarrassing situation where PPCRV was trapped (quite a similar scenario to what happened in the 2016 elections when Garcia changed the “?” characters with the “ñ”). Appearing to be the savior, Garcia corrected the script file (as to whose authority?) in the transparency server (old trick that was repeated in 2016 elections) to resolve the “formatting error” which was causing the double counting (see for further details). For whatever explanation they had then, one overwhelming fact was that the 12 million votes counted out of 1,418 precincts was too much when in fact, the maximum number of voters per precinct at that time was only 1,000 voters. The “formatting error” was not doubling the count, but rather multiplying the count more than eight times. Had Comelec and Smartmatic tested all AES-related systems months before the actual elections, that drama of Garcia of changing the script would not have happened twice (one in 2013 and another one in 2016). Well, that was evidence that the AES used in 2013 didn’t pass through extensive test certification procedures. And Comelec didn’t bother to check!

The following day, May 14, 2013, AES Watch convened for a meeting to discuss a more pressing issue than the formatting error. It was the discovery by Dr. Lex Muga, one of the AES Watch members, of the 60-30-10 phenomenon which revealed that the nationwide election results showed 60 percent winning candidates from the Liberal Party, 30 percent from UNA and 10 percent from the rest of the political parties. I saw it with my own eyes when Dr. Muga was still in the process of gathering the data. Hence, AES Watch concluded that the unbelievable pattern was statistically improbable. How did it happen? Former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes’ only reaction was that he would investigate the phenomenon. Up until he retired, there was no investigation made. He just let it go! But among the academicians, the 60-30-10 pattern was extensively debated. They said it was mathematically impossible. But for IT professionals, it was merely an act of unauthorized re-programming of the canvassing and consolidation system, as simple as that, no debates needed. Just like what happened in Episode III (2010 elections): the cases of faulty final testing and sealing a week before the 2010 elections and the tampered computer program of the seized 60 PCOS machines in Antipolo were manifestations of AES that had been meddled with. Even Comelec could not refute the AES Watch findings then.

Equally disturbing as the 60-30-10 phenomenon was the 76 percent success rate of Comelec in transmitting the election results from the precinct level, much less than the 90 percent of 2010. Comelec blamed the telcos for the failed transmission of the election results coming from the 24percet clustered precincts. However, the telcos said in a JCOC hearing that their facilities were 100 percent fired up. Besides, they provided a dedicated virtual private network not mixed up with regular data and voice traffic. The telcos elaborated further that they provided the SIM cards to Smartmatic and the latter distributed these cards nationwide. This could be the crux of the matter as only Smartmatic knew what SIM card number operated with a precinct.

A month after, on June 18, 2013, AES Watch filed charges against Comelec officials et al. before the Ombudsman for failure to implement the safeguards in the law and for entering into contracts grossly disadvantageous to the government and the electorate.

(To be continued)