Dagdag-bawas (vote padding-shaving) became notorious during the manual counting of votes, especially during the 2004 presidential elections. But again, suspicions of dagdag-bawas are resurfacing because of what poll watchdogs described as numerous violations of the poll automation law. Given the preparation and decisions made by the Comelec — from avoiding real review of the source code of the programs being used to read votes and transmit the same, to disabling security features of poll automation at nearly every step – there are numerous potentials for automated cheating. Or in the language of IT experts of election watchdog AES Watch, instances when votes are ‘vulnerable to manipulation.’ As the canvassing of votes got stalled repeatedly by transmission problems and glitches, by Saturday May 1, or five days after elections, some 20-percent of election returns are still to be canvassed.
This last 20-percent of election returns whose transmission had been delayed for five days by Saturday, “stand at risk of manipulation,” warned Lito Averia, president of PHCERT (Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team). Even the ladderized transmission apparently offers opportunities for vote manipulation at every stage because of the disabled security features and other violations of the poll automation law, such as the physical transport of CF cards rather than the electronic transmission of its contents. The corrupted CF cards and transmission problems could indicate automated cheating, but the pollwatchers and the people are none the wiser for it, the AES Watch experts said Saturday May 18.
Averia showed the media and gathered pollwatchers and election lawyers the flow chart being followed in vote canvassing by the Comelec, from a single central server processing ERs to ER transmitting copies of COCs (Certificates of Canvas) to city/municipality BOC (board of canvassers), then Provincial Board of Canvassers, then national board of canvassers. Averia also showed where in the flow chart the PPCRV and “transparency” server are.
There is “no guarantee” that the central server and transmitting servers are showing same data at any given time, Averia said. There is also no confirmation regarding which ER had been sent. These pose problems to pollwatchers who now have no way of checking or validating the numbers of votes climbing up the transmission ladder on the way to being canvassed.