By Jairus Bondoc | Philstar
The Comelec is considering six automation options for Election 2019 – all will involve the controversial Venezuelan supplier in the 2010, 2013, and 2016 balloting. That has the info-tech community bristling. Since 2008, when Smartmatic demonstrated its touch-screen voting machines in the Muslim regional election, Filipino computer experts have been critical of its performance. Smartmatic badmouthed the competing optimal mark reading machines then, yet sold or leased the very OMR – for tens of billions of pesos – in the three succeeding national elections. Fraud and law breaches marked those elections, which the Comelec deftly swept aside. Now its six options are to: (1) refurbish the OMR units of 2010 and 2013, (2) purchase the leased OMRs of 2016, (3) combine the first two, (4) lease yet more such OMRs, (5) switch to the touch-screen, or (6) mix up any or all. Smartmatic beamed when the Comelec announced those last month, prompting Philippine Computer Society ex-president Leo Querubin to write Comelec chairman Andres Bautista:
“The national and local midterm election is fast approaching and it seems Smartmatic is again being considered as the election systems provider in May 13, 2019. When will you ever learn?
“I have sent you so many letters highlighting the incompetence and violations of Philippine election laws by this company, and yet you so stubbornly allow this Venezuelan company to ruin Philippine elections.
“In all previous elections managed by Smartmatic, from 2008 to 2016, Smartmatic has violated election laws by accessing elections servers during election day. In 2008 Smartmatic was surprisingly allowed by then-Chairman (Jose) Melo to access servers in Mindanao remotely from Manila. In 2013 I was actually not surprised that you, with the eager participation of PPCRV Chair Henrietta De Villa, authorized Smartmatic to illegally access the election servers, change scripts, and delete files.
“And again in 2016 you permitted a foreigner to access election servers during Election Day. Whether it affected the results or not is irrelevant. Republic Act 9369, Section 28 states that ‘gaining or causing access to using, altering, destroying or disclosing any computer data, program, system software, network, or any computer-related devices, facilities, hardware or equipment, whether classified or declassified’ is a violation of the law and ‘shall be penalized as provided in this Act, whether or not said acts affect the electoral process or results.’
“Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic admitted in a hearing conducted by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System that he accessed and deleted computer data in 2013. In 2016, he again unrepentantly declared on national television that he accessed and changed computer data.
“You are the valedictorian of your batch in Ateneo Law School, and have a Masters in Law from Harvard. I do not have a law degree and yet I can see that there is a clear violation of Philippine laws.
“And despite these deliberate acts of blatant disrespect of a foreign vendor towards Philippine election laws, which as Chair of Comelec you are obligated to uphold, here you are again allowing Smartmatic to participate in the bid to provide the election system in 2019.
“You may accuse me of having vested interest because I am currently an employee of a rival election vendor of Smartmatic. (Yet) you and I, including the previous and current Comelec Commissioners, know that I have been advocating to blacklist Smartmatic since 2008, when they first showed the arrogance to access the servers in Wao, Lanao del Sur, remotely from Manila during the 2008 ARMM automated elections.
“In 2016 a Venezuelan thought he had the authority to implement a ‘cosmetic change’ in the middle of a tightly contested Vice Presidential race. Marlon Garcia has been managing election projects in the Philippines since 2008. Smartmatic has conducted three previous national elections in the Philippines. I am sure they already know the nature of Philippine elections, and yet they still implemented a cosmetic change to correct the ‘?’ to ‘ñ’. And that ‘cosmetic change’ has divided this country ever since.
“Smartmatic even admitted that they installed secret servers in 2016. Those servers collected all precinct results before transmission to the municipal canvassing and consolidation servers.
“Did you know about this? If you did, why did you allow this? If you did not know about this, what will you do now that you know?
“There is something sinister behind that action, or they are just simply incompetent. Either way, they should not have any business managing elections systems in this country. Ever.
“I do not blame these Venezuelans for what they have done. The Philippines for them is just business, and a lucrative one at that. They do not have a stake in this country’s political stability. They do not care about this country’s future. They do not care how history will judge them.
“I hope you do.”
“Sincerely, Leo Querubin”
Querubin is a Certified Management Consultant, a Master Project Manager, a Certified International Project Manager, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Project Management, with over 30 years of extensive international experience in planning and implementing large-scale IT projects. He is currently a managing consultant at Indra Philippines handling the public administration, education, and healthcare markets.