By Nelson Celis – The Manila Times
EPISODE VIII (2017-2019). The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) was very silent in 2017. It was the usual thing for AES Watch conveners to regularly attend JCOC hearings during the chairmanship of Sen. Koko Pimentel. Of course, that never happened in Sen. Leila de Lima’s time, who was the JCOC Senate chair after the 2016 elections, as she was arrested in February 2017. The first and last JCOC hearing convened after the 2016 elections happened only in February 2018 under the leadership of Sen. Chiz Escudero. Senator Pimentel, after being replaced as Senate President, was reassigned as the JCOC chair in May 2018.
Under Section 33 of the automated election system (AES) law, or RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369 in 2007, two salient points are stipulated, and these are: 1) the conduct a mandatory review of the law every 12 months from the date of the last regular national or local elections; and 2) the conduct of a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the performance of the different AES technologies implemented and make appropriate recommendations to Congress. The first one never happened since 2007. That means, there has been no review of the law for the past 11 years. The second one didn’t transpire too, though there was a Senate resolution filed by Sen. Nancy Binay in May 2017 calling on the Senate to immediately convene the JCOC to review all the issues that were encountered during the elections. Binay stressed that the poll body had yet to submit its comprehensive review of the AES used in 2016. She was referring to the AES law’s mandate for the Comelec’s Advisory Council (CAC) to prepare a written report (i.e., Section 9), which shall be submitted within six months from the date of the elections to the JCOC, evaluating the use of the AES. In fairness to the CAC, though a little late, it submitted the report in February 2017.
However, there was neither a presentation nor deliberation of the 2016 AES evaluation report of the CAC in the JCOC hearing held on February 1, 2018 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X97wa5Rg02s&t=42s). Instead, Escudero discussed initially the option to purchase (OTP) contract signed by the poll body on January 18, 2018; directed the Comelec to present the thorough financial analysis of the OTP in the next meeting; directed the CAC to submit its OTP recommendation to Comelec, directed the random manual audit committee to resubmit its report; directed the poll body to submit the dump of the transmission logs of the servers connected to the transparency server; took note of the recommendation of the previous CAC to consider local development of AES (read: http://www.manilatimes.net/the-search-for-an-alternative-aes/415753/); directed the Department of Information & Communications Technology (DICT) to communicate with the three telco providers (i.e., including VSAT providers, We are IT Philippines, Inc.) and to submit soft copies of the audit and transmission logs; directed Comelec to give some sample of ballot images not covered by Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s election protests; directed the poll body to submit the internet protocol (IP) and media access control (MAC) addresses of all the devices, including the servers connected to the network during the last elections; and directed the JCOCs secretariat to get the domain name system (DNS) issues raised by Glenn Chong, then communicate the same to Comelec to produce the related documents.
The following are the details requested by Glenn Chong at the JCOC.
I. To prove that legally established transmission hierarchy was followed, Comelec must submit the following related to DNS:
—Log files of all the DNS Servers used during the 2016 national and local elections (NLE), including but not limited to the zone files, secure logs and message logs of the primary DNS, the secondary DNS and any other DNS servers which may have been used;
—Rack diagram with individual components of the “Meet Me Room” and the primary and secondary data centers used in the 2016 NLE;
—Logical network diagram (data flow)
—Detailed network diagram with the components and network elements indicated;
—List of allocated IP addresses per VLAN space including those assigned to the telco providers; and,
II. To ascertain the security of the IT infrastructure of the elections, Comelec must submit the following related to all other servers:
—Inventory of all transmission devices provided by each telco providers, local and abroad, including but not limited to the APS assigned to each device, VPN peers, and all other such devices.
—Log files of the central server including both application and server logs and the central server database logs and its corresponding server logs;
—Log files of the transparency server including both application and server logs
—Log files of the queue server and its database logs;
—Log files of any other server used during the 2016 NLE; and,
—Firewall log files.
II. To prove that an extraneous mark was added into the ballot images, Comelec must submit the following:
—Decrypted ballot images from precincts not subject to election protest; and,
—Corresponding physical ballots of decrypted ballot images
With the foregoing directives, submissions from Comelec have yet to be received and discussed in the next JCOC hearings. Unfortunately, the subsequent hearings were never conducted as the privilege speech of Sen. Tito Sotto on March 6, 2018 about the 2016 poll fraud could have intervened.
Perhaps, Senator Pimentel would end this impasse when he convenes the JCOC one of these days. Come to think of it, all the JCOC directives are just manifestations that the final say of what technologies to recommend in 2019 elections are still in their hands (Section 33). It is not the mere decision of the Comelec to decide on the OTP! While Comelec still needs to prove before the JCOC that the technologies used in 2016, and even in the past, are really transparent.
We should also not forget that former Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista was impeached by the House of Representatives and consequently resigned in October 2017.
Hence, Episode VIII will not be the last chapter for Smartmatic in our elections as it appears that they are the favored AES provider in the 2019 elections by Comelec. Aside from exercising the JCOC power, are there petitions to stop this?
But wait for the final decision of the JCOC, notwithstanding the 2016 poll fraud probe that the Senate President, Sotto, is pushing now.
(To be continued)