The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is pushing through with the plan to test run the mobile voting application for possible use in future poll exercises. Poll Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said they will hold the test run as soon as it is safe to conduct it. “We have to choose countries where there are very low risk of contamination,” she said. “We have to find ways to test it without personal contact with the providers,” she added. Guanzon, Comelec – Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) commissioner-in-charge, said with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is more reason to push for mobile app voting by Filipinos overseas especially those in the United States and seafarers. The Comelec en banc had earlier approved the test run of the mobile voting application overseas for possible use in the May, 2022 polls.
Philippines: Comelec to test mobile voting app in the Netherlands, Spain | Leslie Ann Aquino/Manila Bulletin News
Aside from San Francisco in the United States, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will also test the mobile voting application in the Netherlands and Spain for possible use in future polls. The Comelec was initially planning to conduct the test run in San Francisco, Singapore, and Middle East but decided to drop the last two due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) there. “We will be testing this mobile voting app in San Francisco (United States), Amsterdam (the Netherlands), and Spain,” Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said in an interview Thursday. “During the test run we will see how fast it is and also the problems before we make a recommendation to the Senate, House of Representatives and the JCOC (Joint Oversight Congressional Committee),” she added. Guanzon believes having a mobile voting app system would be very helpful especially in situations where there is a disease outbreak or natural calamity.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is seriously looking into activating a mobile app voting system in the May 2022 elections, with four suppliers ready to showcase their computer program’s capability. Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who is pushing for these new modes of casting votes in the national and local elections, over the weekend said it pays to see what new technologies in the market can offer. “Four suppliers of mobile app voting program/system offered to conduct a test run for the Comelec,” Guanzon posted on Twitter. She declined to provide other details on the proposed system, saying it is still premature, but assured the public of transparency when this mobile app enabling Filipinos to vote electronically is tested.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking to “hybridize” the next national elections in May 2022. “We have no recommendations yet. It’s been talked about. Our focus really is a hybridization of the AES (Automated Election System),” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in an interview Wednesday. A hybrid election system is a combination of both manual and electronic methods to be used either in voting, counting, transmission, and canvassing of results. However, the poll body official added that they have given Congress an estimated budget for their plan. “So far, we gave them our budget estimate, how much it would cost and well it looks like there is budget implication especially hybridization the way they are describing it now with projectors and everything at the canvassing level. So the costs have ballooned,” he said. While he doesn’t have the exact figures, Jimenez said the commission may have to pay twice or thrice the normal cost of an election.
Philippines: Clans in Congress want to go ‘hybrid’: Comelec line change: 7 Duterte appointees to run 2022 elections | Malou Mangahas and Karol Ilagan/MindaNews
Clean, honest, inclusive, and credible elections might well turn into just a pipedream when the votes for president, vice president, legislators, and local officials come up in May 2022. As it is, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already found itself confronted by big back and forward issues: unsettled flawed supplies contracts and weak project management systems that marked the May 2019 elections; five of its seven commissioners, and its executive director, retiring between January next year to February 2022; and an apparently concerted effort by politicians to write finish to its automated-election system or AES. Claiming fraud was triggered by defective vote-counting machines, politicians from old political clans led no less by President Rodrigo R. Duterte have urged Comelec and Congress to junk the AES and instead revert to a hybrid system of elections, or one that is partly manual and partly automated. But election observers worry that this hybrid system posits opportunities for ballot-box stuffing and snatching, and the dagdag-bawas system driven by the guns, goons, and gold of elections past. Complicating matters is the fact that the push for ‘hybrid’ elections is unfolding as Comelec prepares for impending major changes among its commissioners. In fact, by the time of the next synchronized presidential, legislative, and local elections in May 2022, the poll body will face a major topline change. Worse yet, the changing of guards could happen midway in the campaign period.
Following the success of the recent 2019 midterm elections, Smartmatic has vowed to keep on providing a secure voting technology and transparent poll process to the Philippines as the government looks for an alternative Automated Election System (AES). “Smartmatic has been a leader in providing an efficient, secure and transparent automated election system in many counties and in the Philippines. We want to continue this and strengthen our partnership with the government in providing a secure, faster and credible election system,” said Ramaakanth Sake, president of Smartmatic Asia Pacific. The company participated in the AES Technology Fair of the Department of Information and Communications Technology on July 15. The event had different local and global providers presenting their concept or prototype of an alternative AES that could be utilized for the 2022 national and local elections. Smartmatic showcased its latest direct recording electronic voting machines, which use a touch screen to eliminate the need for paper ballots and lessen the possibility of read errors. Per the elections technology firm, the touch screen would need a voter’s fingerprint prior to its perusal.
A few days after the mid-term elections in May, no less than President Duterte himself called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to replace Smartmatic owing to allegations of election fraud. Almost two months have passed since the President’s remarks. But after the perfunctory reactions from Comelec officials, it seems that the poll body has opted to keep mum on the touchy subject. The issue, however, would be hard to brush off. The positioning for the 2022 presidential elections is expected to start in earnest. But unlike the 2010 and 2016 presidential elections, there is now a cloud of doubt on the reliability of electronic voting. And in a span of nine years, it appears that Comelec’s credibility has plummeted from the nearly universal acclaim it received in 2010. The descent to ignominy began in the eyes of many observers in 2017, with a very public spat with then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. Among the many damning revelations made were supposed documents showing alleged commissions received by the former poll chief from their election technology supplier, Smartmatic.
Technology company Smartmatic remains optimistic that it will still be the government’s pick to be the provider of vote-counting machines (VCMs) for succeeding elections, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s view that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must end ties with them. Machines that reject ballots, transmission delays, and over-voting which eventually led to votes not being counted were just some of the problems encountered during the May 2019 elections. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Comelec hosted a technology fair on Monday, July 15, to scout for possible alternatives to Smartmatic’s system. Despite the President’s criticism, Smartmatic showed up and presented hardware such as a direct recording electronic voting machine or touchscreen.
Philippines: Supreme Court junks pleas on source code review in vote counting machines | Benjamin Pulta/The Inquirer
The Supreme Court (SC) has turned down petitions, which seek to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow groups to open and review the source code in the vote counting machines (VCMs) as provided for under Republic Act 9369 or the Election Modernization Act of 1997. In an banc decision dated April 30 and released Monday, the High Court likewise denied the motion of the petitioners — Sen. Richard Gordon, the Bagumbayan-NVP Movement Inc. and Tanggulang Demokrasya — to hold former Comelec chair Sixto Brilliantes Jr. in contempt for his failure to comply with his commitments to the Court during the May 8, 2013 oral arguments to, among others, make the source code available for review and to grant more time to the parties to comply with the requirements to do so. “In deciding that Chairman Brillantes is not liable for indirect contempt, the Court focuses solely on the undertakings that were directly promised to the Court, not those which the petitioner feels were promised,” the SC added. The High Court dismissed on the ground of “being moot and academic” while their plea to cite Brilliantes for contempt was junked for “utter lack of merit.”
The Supreme Court has dismissed the petitions filed by Senator Richard Gordon and two other groups asking that it compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow groups to open and review the source code in the vote-counting machines provided for under Republic Act 9369 or the Election Modernization Act of 1997. Petitioners Bagumbayan-NVP Movement Inc. and Tanggulang Demokrasya specifically want the high court to ask the Comelec to use digital electronic election returns and provide for the basic security safeguards, which include the source code review, vote verification, and random audit in compliance with RA 9369. The high court took note of the existence of several rules and resolutions governing the conduct of the automated elections, including Resolution No. 10458 (General Instructions for the conduct of Random Manual Audit relative to the May 13, 2019 Automated National and Local Elections and subsequent elections thereafter), on December 5, 2018, Resolution No. 10460, or the General Instructions on the constitution, composition and appointment of the Electoral Board; use of the Vote Counting Machines; the process of testing and sealing of the Vote Counting Machines; and the voting, counting and transmission of election results, among others.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza has agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte to replace vote counting machines (VCMs) provider Smartmatic in time for the next elections. In a Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum on Wednesday, Atienza said Duterte was right to call for the replacement of Smartmatic. “I’m happy with his statement, Smartmatic must go,” Atienza said. During Duterte’s visit in Japan last month, the President told the Commission on Elections to “dispose of” Smartmatic following numerous election irregularities, including computer glitches experienced by several VCMs.
Philippines: Voting machine glitches disrupt Philippines poll | Andreo Calonzo and Philip J. Heijmans/Washington Post
Malfunctioning machines and hundreds of arrests for suspected vote buying disrupted the Philippines’ midterm elections on Monday. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is poised for a majority win in both houses of Congress, even with slowing economic growth and controversial policies including a deadly drug war. Over 18,000 government positions are up for grabs in the midterm elections, including half of the 24-seat Senate and about 300 posts in the House. Polls are set to close at 6pm and among the stumbles have been defects in 600 voting machines, causing long queues and delays in several areas, the Commission on Elections said.
Each vote-counting machine (VCM) will service more voters in the May 13 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Friday, April 26. The maximum number of voters that can use each VCM is now 1,000. In the 2016 elections, the maximum was 800 voters per VCM. In a DZMM interview, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez explained that the number of registered voters has risen to 61 million this year from 54 million in 2016. Jimenez said the number of VCMs in the Comelec’s custody, however, stayed at 92,000. “Unfortunately hindi sumabay ang bilang ng makina natin. Ang bilang ng makina natin, ganoon pa rin. So ang ginawa ng Comelec, tinaasan ‘yung dami ng taong gagamit ng bawat makina,” Jimenez said. (Unfortunately, the number of machines was not able to keep up. The number of machines stayed the same. So the Comelec increased the number of people who will use each machine.)
Philippines: System reviewers: Automated election system tough to hack, but Comelec still has to keep close watch | BusinessWorld
Individuals who took part in reviewing the automated election system (AES) that will be used for the midterm elections in May assure its security, but said they will still keep track of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in ensuring its integrity. Philippine Linux Users’ Group (PLUG) source code reviewer Pablo Manalastas Jr. said that while the system is taxing for those who plan to rig the automated elections, the Comelec still plays a part in upholding the 2019 National and Local Elections fairness. “It’s very difficult for outsiders to hack into the system but it’s not as difficult to hack into the system if you’re a Comelec or a group of Comelec or Smartmatic personnel who knows all the.. access, then you can hack the system,” he said on Monday during the Poll Body’s consultation with the Local Source Code Review Committee (LSCRC) for this year’s elections. “We have to have faith that the Comelec will do its job,” he added. NPC Source Code reviewer Gadburt Mercado, for his part, said, “This is the first time we have been given unprecedented access so we clearly see the commitment of the agency towards ensuring the elections is a really transparent one.”
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is adopting additional security features in the ballots to be used in the coming May 2019 midterm elections to ensure their integrity and credibility. “The ballots will have the normal security features like marks, barcodes and a few others,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez disclosed in an interview over the weekend. One of the additional features is machine-readable ultraviolet (UV) markings on the ballots, he said. “UV marks can be read by machine and if not readable it will then be rejected,” Jimenez said. He declined to discuss the other features for security reasons.
Starting with the 2019 mid-term elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will use an automated system of verifying the identity of voters. The Comelec on Tuesday started the bidding process for the P1.1-billion Voter Registration Verification Project, which will do away with the usual manual process of verification using printed copies of computerized voters’ list on Election Day. “So there will be no more discretion on the part of the electoral board or the Board of Election Inspector [BEI] as to the identity of the voter because just by finger-scanning the voter, the monitor will show if he or she is really the registered voter as listed in that particular precinct,” said Director J. Thaddeus Hernan, chairman of the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC).
The Supreme Court, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), recently ruled to do away with the contentious shading thresholds as basis for segregating ballots in the protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.
In a step that could fast-track the recount, justices of the tribunal unanimously agreed to refer to election returns (ERs) – the document reflecting totals from polling precincts – in determining how the votes would be credited to either candidates. “The Head Revisors are hereby directed to refer to the election returns to verity the total number of votes as read and counted by the Vote Counting Machines,” the 21-page resolution, promulgated on Tuesday, September 18, read. The resolution amends Rule 62 (Votes of the Parties) of the PET Revisor’s Guide, “effective immediately.” Its amended part now reads: “The segregation and classification of ballots shall be done by referring to the Election Return (ER) generated by the machine used in the elections.” Debate ends on 25% and 50% ballot shading thresholds: Marcos, who lost to Robredo by a narrow 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential election, has identified 3 pilot provinces in his protest: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental – the first one being Robredo’s home province, where she won overwhelmingly.
The Philippines on Monday began a manual recount of votes in a vice presidential election after the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos contested the outcome, while the incumbent assured supporters her win was not in doubt. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, a former senator popularly known as Bongbong, is furious about having lost to Leni Robredo by about 260,000 votes in a May 2016 election he says was marred by massive cheating. Many political commentators believe Marcos has ambitions to become president one day, and wanted to use the vice presidency as a stepping stone. Opinion polls had shown him the clear leader ahead of the vote, which is separate from that for the presidency.
Philippines: Comelec preparing for village polls amid fresh allegations of voting system breach | ABS-CBN
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it would continue preparations for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May despite fresh allegations that the electronic voting system was “compromised” in 2016. In a press conference, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would push through with printing 18 million ballots for the village elections toward the end of the month or before the Holy Week. This despite new allegations of fraud that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III bared on Tuesday, saying the 2016 elections may have been compromised.
No government in the world today, not even the United States, is prepared to fight hackers, a cybersecurity expert declared at a forum on cybersecurity, PilipinasCon 2018, in Taguig City this week. Elections worldwide are being hacked. “Every single counting machine is hackable,” said cybersecurity expert Marc Goodman. At a recent underground hacking conference, he said, 25 different counting machines were broken into remotely and directly. Filipino hackers, he added, committed the biggest government data breach in history when they broke into the Comelec’s voter database and published it online in April, 2016, a month before the election that year.
The Philippine electoral system is vulnerable to cyberattack and the government may not be prepared for it, an American cybersecurity expert has warned. Marc Goodman, founder of the Future Crimes Institute and chairman of policy, law and ethics at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, said governments around the world, particularly the Philippines, were woefully unprepared for threats brought by the automation. The capability of the government to protect its cyber assets was placed in doubt after the “biggest data breach in history” in March 2016, when the database of voters was hacked by the Anonymous group more than a month before the May 2016 national elections.
The son of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Monday took a step towards securing a recount of votes in an election for vice president last year in which he says he was unfairly robbed of victory. The son, also called Ferdinand Marcos but popularly known as Bongbong, lost the election for vice president last May to social activist and lawyer Leni Robredo by about 260,000 votes. He has objected to the result ever since and the Supreme Court ruled in February that his protest was valid, but he has to pay for a recount of the votes.
The Philippine Supreme Court will allow a protest into the disputed election of the country’s vice president, giving the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a chance to prove his claim that he was robbed of the number two post. Social activist Leni Robredo was elected vice president in May 2016, winning by about 260,000 votes over Marcos’ son and namesake. Popularly known as Bongbong, he said he was the rightful winner and votes were stolen from him. Marcos had asked the court to order a recount of more than a million votes in the south and nullification of balloting in three provinces. Robredo in turn asked the court to reject his petition. On Thursday, Marcos released the court’s Jan. 24 ruling which found his petition “sufficient in form and substance”.
The Senate committee on electoral reforms is set to conduct an inquiry into the hacking of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) database, an incident considered the worst recorded breach on a government-held personal database in the world. In her Senate Resolution 260, electoral reforms committee chair Sen. Leila de Lima said there is a need to find the extent of damage the hacking caused to the voters’ database and the integrity of ordinary people’s personal information. “There is no denying that the Comelec data breach is unacceptable. Those responsible should be fully prosecuted and punished, whether they are foreign or domestic actors,” De Lima said, stressing that the breach is everyone’s problem. “Online lawlessness should be nipped at its bud,” she added.
What a difference one month makes. In December, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista basked in the glow of an agency that was hailed globally as the Electoral Commission of the Year for the successful May 9, 2016, polls. A month later, he was facing potential criminal prosecution over the March 2016 hacking of the Comelec website that has since been described as one of the worst breaches of a government-controlled database. The National Privacy Commission said on Thursday that Bautista had committed “gross negligence” under the Data Privacy Act of 2012, or Republic Act No. 10173. This came to light following an investigation of a “data breach” from March 20 to 27 last year. The breach exposed almost 77 million voter registration records. Sensitive information, such as voters’ full names, addresses, passport details and birthdays were posted on online platforms and a website that has since been taken down. So notorious was the event that it even has its own name: Comeleak.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has announced that Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. would have no role in the ongoing diagnostics of the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Comelec chair Andres Bautista said the poll body opted not to adopt the plan of previous election officials to involve Smartmatic in the diagnostics project involving around 81,896 PCOS machines. Bautista explained that the Comelec is not obliged to include the technology provider, which served in that capacity in the last three automated national and local polls. “The PCOS machines came from Smartmatic, but it is already the property of the Comelec and the government of the Philippines,” he said.
Philippines: AES hacking issue raised anew and Smartmatic’s demand for P2B payment | The Manila Times
On December 9, 2016, a number of news websites carried the news that President Barack Obama had ordered a full review of possible Russian hacking of the recent United States election. Questioning whether an automated election system (AES) can be hacked or not raises concerns about the integrity of the AES and the credibility of election results that the system generates. The Philippine experience in automating the elections is no different. Concerns were raised on possible vulnerabilities of the AES used in the last three elections. Everything happens inside the machine and those internal mechanisms are shielded from public observation But can the voting machines really be hacked? Just as in the US, none of the vote counting machines (VCMs) used in the Philippine elections is connected to the Internet; they connect to the transmission network only when they are ready to transmit the election returns to the city or municipal canvassing and consolidation system (CCS) and other servers. Hackers would not be able to hack into the VCMs since the transmission network is configured as a virtual private network with the appropriate security measures in place, and the time period to perform hacking activities is very short. Potentially, however, the CCS and other servers are exposed to possible attacks since the CCS and other servers are open for much longer periods while they wait to receive transmissions from the VCMs and CCS.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday began returning more than 1,000 vote-counting machines (VCM) to its supplier despite opposition from former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. whose poll protest was based partly on allegations that the election results had been manipulated with the use of VCMs. In an urgent manifestation and motion on Oct. 21, Marcos asked the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to “prohibit the poll body from releasing the subject VCMs” after the Comelec informed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno it plans to return the machines to Smartmatic-TIM. The Marcos camp also asked the PET to determine whether these VCMs were used in the vice presidential race, which the former senator lost by about 260,000 votes to Leni Robredo, the Liberal Party candidate. On June 29, Marcos filed his electoral protest and asked the PET to stop Robredo’s inauguration. He said votes that were counted for Robredo were fraudulent, contesting the results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five cities.
The camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Sunday blamed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Bureau of Immigration for the “escape” of a Smartmatic emgineer facing criminal charges in connection with the May 9 elections. The Marcos camp had asked the Comelec to ask the Immigration bureau to issue a hold departure order (HDO) against all personnel of Smartmatic accused of violating the Cybercrime Law but the request was not granted. Smartmatic is the technology provider to last month’s local and national polls. The respondents were charged for their alleged involvement in unauthorized alteration of the script of the transparency server at the height of the transmission of votes just hours after voting closed.
Lawyers for Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. have questioned the unusually high number of “undervotes” in the vice presidential race as shown in Certificates of Canvass (COCs) opened on Wednesday, the first day of the official tally by Congress. “We have accounted ‘undervotes’ Your Honor, that’s totaling the votes cast for the Vice President vis-à-vis the votes cast by the voters, it would appear that such number was discovered from the COC Your Honor that totals 623,174,” one of the lawyers, George Garcia, said on Thursday. The discovery confirmed Marcos’ earlier complaint that 3.3 million “undervotes” were discovered in their own quick count, Garcia added. Because of questions involving the “undervotes,” only 45 of the 48 opened COC were officially included in the canvass.