Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 May 2019


Is it possible that there was tampering in the 2019 elections and manipulation of the results? I asked a couple of IT experts. The answer was a resounding yes. It is possible. Whether it actually happened is another matter. But given Venezuelan and Filipino ingenuity, I wouldn’t bet against it.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), and most of the public, seem to think that whether cheating actually happened depends on the results of  the Election Return (ER) coming from the clustered precincts as compared with the transmitted results. If they match, there could not have been any tampering.

This conclusion would be wrong, says a report to the Secretariat of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC ) on the Automated Election System (AES) Investigating the Conduct of the 2016 Elections. The statement comes out on p. 17 of the 27-page report after the author, Jeff Ian C. Dy, had given a “hypothetical” example of an attack on the vote-counting machines with matching ER and transmitted results: “Thus, it is fallacious to assert that if the ER and the transmitted results matched, the election results were not tampered (sic).”

Who is Jeff Dy? An IT expert who used to work with Smartmatic.

Dy makes the point that tampering would have to be an inside job—which means people inside Smartmatic-TIM, or the Comelec itself. There are also excellent recommendations on improving the AES.

The Dy report was a response to Sen. Tito Sotto’s privilege speech in early 2018, which in turn was based on Glenn Chong’s attacks on the AES arising from his experience in the 2016 elections. Why it took over a year and a half and the Senate president’s prodding for the JCOC to spring into action is beyond me. But this late response is contributory to suspicions with regard to the AES in the 2019 elections.

Only consider: The JCOC met twice in 2017, maybe seven times in 2018, and four times this year—the last 11 times to consider the issues raised by Sotto.

On June 4, the JCOC will meet to investigate if there were irregularities in the 2019 elections. You should know, Reader, that as of today, the final report on the 2016 elections has not yet come out. In fact, Dy’s report was submitted only on March 18, 2019, and distributed to the JCOC technical working group only last month—too late for its recommendations to be adopted for the 2019 elections. Thus are our elections so cavalierly managed.

The question is, how can election manipulation happen?

According to Lito Averia, an IT and election expert, one way is to tamper with the “configuration files.” It works this way: A ballot is aligned horizontally and vertically, and the coordinates where the eggs to be shaded are placed, are then assigned to candidates. In our ballots, you can see the eggs beside the candidates’ names, and those are what you mark. If the configuration files are not tampered with, the files should reflect what are on the ballot.

But the candidate’s name on the ballot may not be what is reflected on the configuration files.  Say that location A1 in the ballot is assigned to Acebedo. To reduce his vote, the configuration file A1 is assigned to Salcedo, a weaker candidate, and vice versa. When the votes are counted, Acebedo’s recorded votes would be less than his actual votes.

Who oversees the assignments in the configuration files? Supposedly the Comelec, who looks over the shoulders of Smartmatic-TIM. Inside job.

Another way is to pre-shade the ballot (with invisible ink, which can be read by the VCM), betting that the ballot is not filled up by the voter, as is usually the case. Inside job. This is where the extra names in a ballot receipt come from. Voters should really scrutinize their receipts (I did not, I forgot my glasses).

In investigating the 2019 elections, the Senate should also inquire why Namfrel’s (National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections) request to the Comelec in December 2018 was not answered until the end of April 2019, and why Namfrel was not granted its request to access all the logs involved in the election process. This was asked to facilitate the “forensics” needed to determine where the irregularities occurred, if any.

I believe in the integrity of Namfrel, and its being effectively marginalized in this elections is, on its face, questionable.