The Manila Times – No one is complaining – until now

By Al S. Vitangcol 3rd | The Manila Times

Last of 2 parts

THE joint congressional oversight committee (JCOC) hearing on the automated elections system (AES) was convened on Monday. It was presided over by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and attended by the officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and other stakeholders.

However, most of the attendees that I talked to were disappointed with the results of the JCOC hearing. For one, no concrete actions were taken by the body relative to the alleged election irregularities. There was even a perception that the voices of the electoral reform advocates were muzzled.

Former congressman Glenn Chong, interviewed by Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, commented that the issue of Uson’s federalism video with Drew Olivar was trivial compared to the issues he raised. Uson said that her critics should focus on the alleged election cheating exposed by Chong.

Well, in my opinion, both of these issues are important. Federalism is a very important matter that should be thoroughly studied and understood by every Filipino. Likewise, the issues hounding our AES should be explained to the people.

Preventing electronic cheating

Now this can be told. There were claims during the 2016 national and local elections that approximately six million votes would be shaved from the votes of presidential and vice-presidential candidates and credited to a favored beneficiary.

Sometime in April 2016, personalities from Davao City approached me and asked me how this could be done. I explained to them that “rogue” vote-counting machines (VCMs) can transmit the results to the canvassing and consolidating system (CSS) ahead of time to pre-empt the transmission of the “legal” VCMs. Another possibility is for another computer to directly access the server and change the data therein.

Their next question to me was how could this be prevented. Well, I told them that every machine — whether it is a VCM, a laptop, or a server — has a media access control (MAC) address. Every access to the server by a machine, whether it is rogue or legal, can be traced in the logs through their internet protocol (IP) addresses. Likewise, all SIM cards have their own international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) and every communications gadget its own international mobile equipment identity (IMEI).

Now, if there is an inventory of all MAC addresses, IP addresses, IMSIs, and IMEIs, then any attempt to access by a machine, which is not in that inventory, can readily be flagged and stopped. However, Comelec has no such inventory.

How do we tell those would-be-cheaters that we know that there is such a scheme? By filing a petition for mandamus before the Supreme Court, praying that Comelec be compelled to have an inventory of the MAC address, IP address, IMSI, IMEI and submit the same to the court.

Comelec would be given a copy of the petition. Hence, those who are part of the “grand-scheme-of-things” would similarly know that we know how it would be done.

Petition before SC

On May 2, 2016, a week before the 2016 NLE, I filed a petition before the Supreme Court. It was captioned Al S. Vitangcol 3rd vs Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 224027, for Mandamus.

Of course, the Supreme Court was not expected to act on it in time for the 2016 elections. The filing in itself was a fait accompli — just to let the others know that some people are watching them.

As expected, when the court’s resolution came out in October 11, 2016, the petition was dismissed on the ground of mootness.

However, the separate opinion of Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen is enlightening and worth re-reading. It should have been the controlling decision if the court looked at it in another light.

Petition should be granted

Justice Leonen’s separate opinion recommended the granting of the petition. He wrote, “Accordingly, the petitions should be granted. The media access control (MAC) and internet protocol (IP) addresses, as well as the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) and international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers, of all election-related devices should be made public.”

I admire Justice Leonen’s vision, in this particular case, about future elections. Here are some of the conclusions he made.

“Without a doubt, information on the conduct of elections is a matter of public concern as it directly affects the lives of the people. The conduct of free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections is the primary mechanism by which the principles of a democratic and republican society can be achieved. It is an exercise of direct sovereignty from which all government authority emanates. To borrow the words of former chief justice Reynato S. Puno, elections lie at the very heart of our democratic process because it is through voting that consent to the government is secured.”

“The issues raised by petitioners have far-reaching and serious implications. The claim that hackers can intercept, alter, and send the altered data to the Commission on Elections servers may cast doubt on the integrity of election results. Consequently, the legitimacy of the newly elected officials may be questioned. The electorate may find the automated election system unreliable, which may then deter them from casting their votes on election day.”

“The Commission on Elections may be compelled, through mandamus, to make an inventory of and disclose the MAC and IP addresses and IMSI and IMEI numbers of all electronic devices used during elections to the public. It is mandated to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election.”

“The case may have been rendered moot and academic, but the petitions should be granted for fuller guidance of the bench and bar as automated elections will definitely occur in the future.”

I fully agree with him that “any form of doubt on the integrity of election results is detrimental to our democratic form of government.”

It is a must that election systems are trustworthy, reliable and credible.

Finally, transparency is imperative to dispel fear and mistrust, both on the election system and the election officials.

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