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.
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.
Whatever the outcome of Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s investigation on the unauthorized changes made by Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (Smartmatic) in the transparency server used by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), it is undeniable that the Venezuelan-owned company committed a serious violation not only of its supply contract but also of the country’s electoral laws. If only to show that our laws and rules are not to be trifled with, the harshest penalty possible ought to be imposed on Smartmatic – perpetual disqualification from any Philippine elections. After all, there are many (and bigger) providers of electronic voting systems in the world other than Smartmatic. Comelec chairman Andy Bautista’s explanation (surprisingly echoing Smartmatic’s excuse for lack of a better alibi) that the correction of the computer script of the Comelec transparency server was merely a “cosmetic change” and did not affect the poll results, is at best ill-informed and speculative, and at worst misleading. Well-intentioned or not, the supposedly “minor” change does not justify Smartmatic tampering with the electronic canvassing system, more so while the bulk of the voting results were being transmitted to the Comelec servers.
Top officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Comelec service provider Smartmatic are facing election sabotage charges before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) for allegedly changing the computer script (hash code) or program which may have altered the counting of the votes. Most of the respondents were not named in the 27-page complaint except for Henrieta de Villa of PPCRV and Marlon Garcia Smartmatic, the Venezuelan IT expert who allegedly changed the script together with unnamed Comelec technicians to accommodate the letter “ñ.” The complaint was filed jointly by the Mata sa Balota Movement (MBM)) and the Coalition of Clean Air Act of the Philippines which asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to look into the hash code switch which they claimed seriously affected the integrity of the counting of the votes in the May 9 national and local elections.
The breach could be the biggest-yet hack of government-held data, according to Trend Micro. A breach of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (Comelec) affecting about 55 million people could be the largest hack of government-held data ever, according to security specialists. Government representatives have downplayed the seriousness of the breach, which took place late last month, but IT security firm Trend Micro said its analysis of the exposed data found that it included sensitive information such as passport numbers and fingerprint records. “Every registered voter in the Philippines is now susceptible to fraud and other risks,” Trend said in an advisory. “With 55 million registered voters in the Philippines, this leak may turn out as the biggest government related data breach in history.”
The Commission on Elections yesterday asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the hacking of the Comelec’s website last Sunday.Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they have referred the case to the NBI’s cybercrime division as a group identifying itself as “LulzSec” has claimed uploading parts of the Comelec’s database to its Facebook account. “That matter has actually been referred to the NBI cybercrimes. So right now, the first step really is to validate whether or not the data they posted are authentic… At this point, I really don’t know if it’s the real deal and that’s the first thing that we want to find out,” Jimenez said. The NBI, however, said it has yet to receive the request from the Comelec. “None yet,” said Victor Lorenzo, executive officer of the NBI’s cybercrime division.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday (January 26) came up with the trusted build of the software that will be used to run the election management system (EMS) of the May 9 national and local polls. The supplier of the software, Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), and the international certifier, SLI Global Solutions, put the trusted build together based on the customized source code reviewed by SLI in Denver, Colorado, USA. They were supervised by members of the Comelec and representatives from the Technical Evaluation Committee of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). On its website, the Comelec defines the trusted build as “the process whereby the source code is converted to machine-readable binary instructions (executable code) for the computer. It is performed with adequate security measures implemented to give confidence that the executable code is a verifiable and faithful representation of the source code.”
Some 45,000 out of the 97,519 vote counting machines (VCMs) that will be used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the coming synchronized local and national polls have arrived in the country. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Friday disclosed that of the number, 20,944 units had been delivered to the Comelec’s warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna, while the remaining 24,000 were still awaiting release by the Bureau of Customs (BoC). According to Jimenez, full delivery that accounts for the remaining 52,575 machines would be made by the end of the month as agreed upon by the Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic Corp. He explained that the voting machines would undergo hardware testing before they are accepted by the poll body to ensure that they are functional.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will reactivate three of the four security features of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines that were deactivated during the 2010 and 2013 elections. “All those features are there but as to whether we will enable the features, chances are [we will reactivate] at least three out of four,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said on Tuesday. The four security features are the ballot verification or ultra violet detectors, the source code review, the digital signature and the voter verified paper audit trail.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) inspected the Smartmatic production facility in Taiwan, where voting machines for next year’s polls are being produced. The Comelec was accompanied by members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), and members of the media. Smartmatic first won the bid for the lease purchase of 23,000 machines in June, and another contract for 70,977 vote-counting machines (VCMs) in September. On December, the Comelec made a repeat order for another 3,000 machines to Smartmatic to ensure that the machine-to-voter ratio will be kept at 1:800.
The Commission on Elections in 2010 and 2013 trusted Smartmatic, a purportedly Venezuelan firm, that its counting of votes in those election years would be completely aboveboard. The Comelec will again give its full trust to Smartmatic in the national election next year as the Filipino people decide who will run this country in the next six years. For such a crucial role in our democratic process, the Comelec knows exactly what it is dealing with, and who the owners of Smartmatic are. Right? Amazingly, no. Neither the Comelec nor Smartmatic has disclosed the full details of the firm’s ownership. What’s worrying is that a detailed investigation by the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela (which, one would presume, had inputs from its intelligence services), where the firm is purportedly based, concluded:
“Smartmatic is a riddle. The company came out of nowhere to snatch a multi-million dollar contract in an electoral process that ultimately reaffirmed Chavez’s mandate and all but destroyed his political opposition. The perspective we have here, after several discussions with Smartmatic, is that the company is de facto Venezuelan and operated by Venezuelans. The identity of Smartmatic’s true owners remains a mystery. Our best guess is that there are probably several well-known Venezuelan businessmen backing the company and who prefer anonymity either because of their political affiliation, or perhaps, because they manage the interests of senior Venezuelan government officials.”
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, December 1, temporarily ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to deactivate the registration of 2.5 million voters who failed to have their biometrics taken for the 2016 elections. SC spokesman Theodore Te said the SC’s temporary restraining order (TRO) covers the Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” (No Biometrics, No Vote) policy. Te said the TRO is “effective immediately and until further orders.” In a text message to Rappler on Tuesday, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said around 2.5 million voters completely failed to have their biometrics taken.
More Filipinos abroad are expected to come out and participate in the May 2016 elections. Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista over the weekend said the Comelec is eyeing higher turnout for the overseas absentee voting (OAV). Bautista said Filipinos abroad are not only expected to register but also actually participate and vote in the coming elections. “We are also trying to beat that of the voter turnout. We are targeting hopefully at least half-a-million to vote for the 2016 elections,” Bautista said.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ruled out the possibility of conducting Internet voting for the 2016 presidential elections. “Personally, I favor Internet voting, but unfortunately, our laws at present do not allow it,” Comelec commissioner Arthur Lim said Wednesday. According to Lim, there are two pending bills in Congress on Internet voting. However, current preparations for the 2016 polls are already focused on the automation of the elections.
The Philippines said today it had shifted production of voting machines for the 2016 presidential election from China to Taiwan due to fears that Beijing might “sabotage” the vote. Christian Lim, a senior official at the government poll watchdog Commission on Elections (Comelec), said the agency had moved the production site to avoid the risk of China interfering with the May 9, 2016 vote, or deliberately failing to deliver the machines. “We want to emphasise that the move to Taiwan was a product of the contract negotiations because we have received intelligence reports that there may be an attempt to sabotage the elections by China,” he was quoted by television reports as telling a congressional budget hearing.
With less than a year left before the 2016 elections, it’s more likely that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will turn to Smartmatic for most voting machine deals. It was the very company that supplied precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the government during the 2010 and 2013 elections. A forum held at the Luneta Hotel on Wednesday (August 12) aimed to address two issues: why the company keeps landing supply deals with Comelec, and whether or not automation is the way to go next year. Smartmatic Asia-Pacific President Cesar Flores said that the reason the company has won practically every bidding to supply vote counting machines is because it has offered the best price. Flores presented data from Smartmatic’s operations in different countries. He pointed out that the sizeable production capacity enables the company to lease or sell the machines at a lower price than most companies. There were questions about alleged failures and glitches in the 2010 and 2013 polls — but Flores said those were mostly untrue, and are marginal.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday declared a failure of the second bidding for the refurbishment of the 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines it owns after the lone bidder was found ineligible for submitting a noncompliant bid. In a resolution, Comelec special bids and awards committee 2 (SBAC 2) declared the joint venture of Dermalog, Avante and Stone of David ineligible. It then declared a failure of bidding for the “supply and delivery of the refurbishment (with systems upgrade) of the existing PCOS machines, its consumables and ballots for the May 9, 2016, national, local and ARMM elections.”
Despite calls to blacklist it from election deals, Venezuelan firm Smartmatic moved closer to bagging all major election contracts for the Philippines’ presidential elections in 2016. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, July 30, said it decided to award to Smartmatic a major contract for the lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines. The contract for these precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines is pegged at P1.7 billion ($37.18 million). Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will soon issue the notice of award to Smartmatic. The lease of 23,000 vote-counting machines is part of the Comelec’s last-ditch effort to ensure automated elections in 2016.
Poll body Chairman Andres D. Bautista told lawmakers during a briefing at the House of Representatives that the Comelec en banc has already denied the pending appeals filed by two rival firms also vying for the P2.5-billion deal for the additional optical mark readers (OMRs). “The Comelec en banc ruled on the MR (motion for reconsideration) on 23,000 new OMRs. This is the green light for us to issue a notice of award to Smartmatic,” Mr. Bautista told members of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. Mr. Bautista had said in a July 14 briefing that the contract was not immediately awarded because of pending motions by rival providers, Indra Sistemas, S.A., and Miru Systems Co.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has approved the awarding to Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) of the contract to lease 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines for the 2016 polls. In Resolution No. 2015-004, the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee -1 (SBAC-1) has recommended the issuance of the “Notice of Award” to the joint venture for its bid offer of more than P1.7 billion. “SBAC-1 resolves to recommend to the head of the procuring entity the issuance of the Notice of Award (to the joint venture) as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid for the lease with option to purchase of election management system and precinct-based OMR or optical scan system,” the committee said. The project has an approved budget of P2.5 billion, but Smartmatic-TIM’s bid offer was only P1.72 billion.
The online voters’ registration program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Elections can now be accessed by overseas Filipino workers worldwide. The DFA-Overseas Voting Secretariat said on Thursday that it had opened iRehistro in the Foreign Service Posts in the Asia-Pacific region. Through the iRehistro program, OFWs can fill out voters’ registration forms in their homes, workplaces, and Internet cafés in their convenience. They can also set their appointment in the FSPs through iRehistro where they will sign their duly-accomplished forms and have their biometrics captured.
It is less than a year before the 2016 presidential elections, but the PCOS machines to be used are still not ready. This is after the Commission on Elections again disqualified Smartmatic-TIM from supplying 23,000 additional PCOS vote-counting machines for the elections because of incomplete documents and because demo units failed to meet technical requirements. Smartmatic has already filed a Motion for Reconsideratino to Comelec. In a statement, Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores said the company is confident they will still get the contract.
Philippines: Hybrid system of manual voting, automated canvassing pitched for 2016 elections | InterAksyon
Saying time was running out for the task of refurbishing the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, a lawmaker on Wednesday pushed for a hybrid system of elections for May 2016. “It will be manual voting and automated canvassing,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said at the regular news conference of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives. “With this, there is no need for billions of pesos and sophisticated technology,” he added. What will be needed are laptops and a secured program that will be used to canvass the total number of votes from the precinct level up to the national level, according to Colmenares. “The checks and balance will be at the canvassing of votes at the precinct level, because people will know the results there,” he said.
Philippines: Comelec decides against testing electronic voting system in 2016 | Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer push through with a plan to pilot-test the touch screen technology during the 2016 elections. In a memorandum, the Comelec said it would not be pilot-testing the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system, as this would just present an “unnecessary hurdle” in the preparations for the May 2016 presidential polls. “The value of pilot-testing the DRE technology and its potential to further revolutionize Philippine elections are undeniable. However, present circumstances sway the undersigned that pilot-testing the use of DRE voting machines in Pateros is an unnecessary hurdle to the already daunting task of conducting the 2016 polls,” said the memorandum signed by acting Comelec Chair Christian Robert Lim.
Following the Supreme Court ruling voiding its contract to repair the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now looking for alternative machines to be used in the May 2016 elections. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body will ready an alternative plan and not wait for the ruling on the motion for reconsideration to be filed by Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. “The possibility of the motion for reconsideration being granted in the future cannot be a basis for the Comelec not to take any action at this time. We need to start our preparations already,” Jimenez said.
With only a year, two weeks and three days to go before the 2016 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering using only the 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines that are the subject of a public bidding, under a centralized setup, a spokesman for the agency said Wednesday. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said this “central count optical system” would bypass the need for the old 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, after the Supreme Court nullified a negotiated contract with Smartmatic-TIM to have them refurbished and repaired. “What we plan now is to use the machines that are still in the bidding process. We are considering using the 23,000 OMR units for a central count optical system,” Jimenez said. The CCOS would entail transporting ballots from a group of precincts to a designated voting center where they would be scanned and tabulated.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer purchase precinct-based direct recording electronic (DRE) machines amid questions on the reliability of the touch screen technology. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on Tuesday said the Comelec en banc had shelved the bidding of the project, which should have been part of the poll body’s P2.503 billion voting machines procurement program. Jimenez explained that the project has not been totally scrapped but the commission is “going a little slower on it than we used to.” The Comelec en banc recently came out with a resolution suspending the progress of the second round of bidding for the DRE and the pilot testing of the technology.
Voters in the coming elections may not be able to try out the new automated election system (AES) after all. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is reportedly having second thoughts on pilot-testing the touch screen technology and Internet voting system for the 2016 electoral exercise. A Comelec source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the commission is reviewing a previous decision to pilot test the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) or touchscreen technology.
Philippines: Comelec willing to shelve Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology | The Manila Times
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may abandon a planned pilot-testing of a touchscreen voting system or Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology in Pateros, Metro Manila for the 2016 elections as some lawmakers and information technology experts criticize the system for being expensive and less transparent. If it will do away with the DRE testing, the poll body will have no choice but to use the existing Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. Acting Comelec Chairman Christian Robert Lim, during a recent hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Elections System (JCOC-AES), said the poll body can still cancel the pilot-testing of the DRE technology since the contract for the supply of DRE machines has not been awarded. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the joint panel, asked Lim about the possibility of shelving the touchscreen voting in 2016 and use PCOS or the transparent and credible election system (TCrES), which is being pushed by various election watch groups and Filipino IT experts.