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The Manila Times - Bautista-Smartmatic election fraud angle persists

News & Interviews
19 August 2017

By Atty. Al S. Vitangcol III | The Manila Times 

PATRICIA Bautista continued this week her exposé on the unexplained wealth of Commission on Elec-tions (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista. She alleged that her husband received P500,000 from the Divina Law Office as referral fee for Divina’s client, Smartmatic International.

Smartmatic’s hold on Comelec
Smartmatic, in joint venture with Total Information Management (TIM) Philippines, has been the technology provider for Philippine elections since 2008. It started with the regional elections in the Au-tonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2008. Since then, all subsequent elections—2010, 2013, 2016—were conducted using Smartmatic-supplied voting machines.

Of course, there were allegations of election fraud in each and every election that used Smartmatic technology, whether it was the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines or the vote counting ma-chines (VCMs).

The traditional manual counting of votes is said to be prone to manipulation, ballot switching, misread-ing of votes, and a host of other schemes.

Switching to automated election systems (AES) was made to promote transparency, integrity, and au-ditability of the votes. Use of modern voting technology is supposed to stop electoral fraud. However, instead of stopping election fraud, it in fact abetted the alleged Comelec syndicate engaged in whole-sale election cheating.

Presumably, Smartmatic technicians, who knew the internals of the voting machines, connive with the syndicate to commit fraud.

Macalintal showed his technical deficiency
In one of his public interviews relative to the Bautista issue, subsequently published in major broad-sheets, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said: “It may need the conspiracy of other stakeholders like the Cen-tral Bank being the official depository of the AES source code; the Comelec regional directors and pro-vincial election supervisors, Smartmatic and other people involved in the operation of the AES. And this certainly is impossible to happen; and did not happen in the 2010, 2013 and 2016 polls wherein not an iota of evidence has been presented to destroy their integrity and credibility.”

Well, with all due respect to Macalintal, he should have confined his comments to purely “legalistic” points and not wandered into the “technical.” It just showed how deficient he is in terms of technolo-gy knowhow.

For the information of the readers, who might be misled by Macalintal’s pronouncements, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), in accordance with the provisions of the Automated Elections Law, is the of-ficial repository of the AES source code. The BSP has nothing to do with the conduct of automated elections. In fact, we are not even sure if the source code in the custody of the BSP is the actual code used in the voting machines.

One can manipulate the PCOS, or the VCM, without getting the source code from the BSP. One can cheat, or hack the voting machines, or tamper with the election results, without conspiring with the BSP.

A Comelec insider or Smartmatic technician can introduce a “script”, a malware, or a malicious code in the system without needing to get hold of the source code that is kept at the BSP!

Comelec syndicate can change election results

Contrary to Macalintal’s baseless conclusion, the Comelec syndicate does not need the cooperation of the regional directors, the provincial election supervisors, and all the people involved in the operations of the AES.

There are several stratagems that can be employed to manipulate the election results.

I can recall that in 2010, when I headed the joint forensic team that investigated the PCOS machines, one major finding was the discovery of a console port at the back of the PCOS machine. Smartmatic claimed that it was only a one-way port used exclusively for diagnostics purposes. However, the fo-rensic team was able to connect an ordinary laptop computer to the PCOS’ console port via a serial ca-ble.

The serially connected laptop computer gained access to the operating system of the PCOS. The con-nection was effected in an unsecure manner – meaning no username and password was required by the PCOS. The operations of the machine were exposed to full access and control by the externally connected laptop computer. The same access can tap the PCOS machine’s on-board memory as a disk for data swapping and data storage. The console port could be exploited to manipulate the actual op-erations of the counting machine.

Another strategy is by transmitting the testing and sealing results to the canvassing system. Once a precinct has sent a transmission result, even if it is not yet the final count, that would preclude any subsequent transmission from the same precinct. Thus, an operator simply sends an early transmis-sion to prevent the transmission of the actual results favoring a certain candidate.

At present, they only need access to the servers storing the election results, which are in the custody of the Comelec, and tamper with its databases. As easy as that.

Bautista can still emerge a hero

With a Bautista-Smartmatic-election fraud angle persisting, he can still emerge as a hero.

First, he should resign from his post. Second, he must expose the syndicate operating within the Comelec. Finally, he better name the politicians who “bought” their elective positions in 2016.

Quoting Optimus Prime, “We can be heroes in our own lives, everyone of us, if we only have the cour-age to try. Our faiths will always intertwine.”

Be courageous, Chairman Bautista.