Senator Marcos questions COMELEC’s act of “Stripping” VCMs and CCS units despite PET Protection Order

11 August 2016

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. today openly questioned the move of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to “strip” the Vote Counting Machines (VCM) and the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) laptop units used in the last elections despite the protection order issued by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to preserve all election paraphernalia.

In a three-page letter sent to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, lawyer Jose Amor Amorado, counsel of Senator Marcos, asked the poll body why it issued the order dated 12 July 2016 approving the stripping of the SD cards and CCS laptop units when the PET resolved and announced to the public the same day the issuance of a protection order to preserve the integrity of all election paraphernalia used in the May elections.

Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, spokesperson of Senator Marcos said the former Senator would like to know the reason behind the issuance of the Resolution which he said “is clearly violative of the EXPRESS and CLEAR directive of the PET to preserve and secure the integrity of all VCM and CCS laptop units, among others.”

“Again, although the PPO was actually released only on August 2, 2016, and which was duly received on same date by your office, the fact is that the PET, as early as July 12, 2016 already announced to the public the issuance of the PPO. Verily, the Commission En Banc issued the questioned Resolution despite knowledge of the issuance of the PPO by the PET,” he stated quoting the letter.

Rodriguez said their Information Technology expert defined the word stripping as one that calls for the dismantling or disabling of a machine or equipment.

Rodriguez noted that the Comelec En Banc last July 12, 2016 approved the recommendation of Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim to grant the request of ERSD Director Ester L. Villaflor-Roxas to back-up the files in the SD cards and CCS laptop units that were used during the May 9, 2016 elections in view of the stripping activity that was scheduled to be carried out at the COMELEC Warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna starting July 16, 2016.

However, he pointed out the PET had resolved and made public its resolution on July 12, 2016 ordering the poll body to preserve and secure the integrity of all election documents and paraphernalia used in the May 2016 elections.

“We are not saying that by stripping, the data will be changed but really we are saying, why did the Comelec made this order when there was already a protection order by the PET to preserve all those used in the last elections,” he said.

“The relevance of the letter is to please take note that one of the arguments raised by Senator Marcos in his election protest is an attack on the integrity of the Automated Election System and the PET issued an order to the Comelec to preserve the system used in the elections as well as those paraphernalia used and yet the Comelec made this order which is totally against the order of the PET,” Rodriguez added.

He further stated that the camp of the former Senator would also like to know if despite the issuance of the protection order, the Comelec is still carrying out the stripping activity which reportedly started on July 16, 2016.

“In addition, we want to know from the Comelec if it still continued with, and is still carrying out, the stripping activity of the VCM and CCS laptops units which supposedly started last July 16 and from that time and the issuance of the order, so much time had lapsed which is the reason why we want to know what happened through this letter,” he said.

Rodriguez also asked the Comelec what measures it had undertaken regarding the preservation directive of the PET to protect the integrity of among others of the Central Server, DATABASE SERVER and any and all “INTERMEDIARY SERVERS” (also known as the QUEUE SERVERS), together with all routers, switches and listeners.

“We also would like to know the measures that the Commission had taken regarding the directive of the PET to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all election paraphernalia used in all the 92,509 clustered precincts nationwide,” he pointed out.

Rodriguez also followed up on their demand for a systems audit considering the fact that the canvassing has long been concluded. It should be remembered that the Comelec last May 25, 2016 deferred action on the former Senator’s request for a systems audit supposedly due to the then ongoing canvassing of votes.

“They informed us before that they were deferring action in view of the canvassing but after the conduct of the canvassing they no longer made any action. That is the reason why we again sent a letter but until now we are still waiting for their action,” he said.

He also demanded an explanation why the certification on the source codes was only issued on April 30, 2016, beyond the three month requisite period, which is in violation of Section 11 of Republic Act 9369.

The source code certification was supposed to have been issued on or before February 9, 2016 or three months before the conduct of the elections.