Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Part Two: Abolition of the Comelec and Revolutionary Options

In the 2010 presidential elections, contrary to the Automated Election Systems Law, Comelec not only collapsed the minimum safeguards but did not implement its digital signature requirement.

In all government transactions, even just in the elementary identification of any citizen, it is basic to require a birth certificate duly issued by the Philippine Statistical Authority. Xeroxed documents are not considered official, unless backed up by a “True Copy” certification.

You cannot attest to any document unless your barangay issues you a “sedula” or a community tax certificate, or your present your driver’s license issued by the Land Transportation Authority or passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, or a senior’s ID issued by the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs of your city or municipality.

Anything less does not serve any probity.

So, it goes without saying that we have been proclaiming winners in our “new” electoral system based on unofficial documents.

The Omnibus Election Code requires in the manual system that “official” election returns must bear the affirming signatures of the three members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).

In the Automated Election Systems law, equivalent validation is to be accomplished as each BEI member encodes their “digital” signatures when prompted by the machine, after summation and before transmission to the main transparency server.

A little more sophisticated that passcodes used in Automated Teller Machines, the digital signatures must first be acquired from the Department of Trade and Industry. This was pointed out by the late Hermenigildo Estrella Jr., one of the pioneers of the ATM banking technology to the Congressional Oversight hearings.

Equally, there is also no certified paper trail whether the count reflected on the transparency server represent the votes actually inserted into the vote counting machine.

To make matters worse, Smartmatic was able to lie and mislead the Comelec and the Congress Oversight Committee co-chaired by Congressman Teddy Boy Locsin, that the “machine” signatures or “Internet Service Provider” (ISP) address could take the place of “digital” signatures.

This is the key to the monumental scam of Smartmatic.

Machine signatures and ISP only tell us the location of a computer, in this case, a PCOS machine or a VCM. It cannot confirm or deny inputs and outputs of computer data as to where it is coming from, much more the veracity of the information transmitted.

This issue was discussed in detail in a Nullification Case of the 2010 Elections filed by this columnist, Herman Tiu Laurel et al, with Homobona Adaza as counsel, before the Supreme Court.

HOW DIGITAL SIGNATURES WORK

Worst, “queue” servers or “shortstops” or intervening computers were exposed to where the votes from the ground first accumulate, before being sent to the main transparency server.

This was glaringly demonstrated in the 2016 elections, where the interregnum of 7 hours between the queue servers and the transparency server, became the subject of an electoral protest of Bongbong Marcos over Leni Robredo. Ultimately, we had a lady vice president winning only by 263,473 out of 41,066,884 total votes cast, a difference of only .64% or less than 1%.          

Are we truly a democracy?

The classic definition of democracy being of the people, by the people and for the people, was delivered by Abraham Lincoln in his classic Gettysburg address.

It is “of” the people because they are the absolute sovereigns. It is “by” the people because the absolute sovereigns delegate their powers to a representative government through direct or indirect elections. It is “for” the people because that government is intended to rule for the welfare and best interest and welfare of the majority of the constituency.  

I remember my long discussions with the late constitutionalists Merlin Magallona and Allan Paguia, where they emphasized that government is only a derivative sovereign and that in reality governments are found wanting in serving their people.

In most cases, government reflect a segment of society that the elections have favored. It could be a class, a party or some interest group. More often than not, this segment is able to stay in power by wielding the influence and resources available to it to perpetuate their election into power.

Instead of making sure the election process has integrity and protecting votes as they are the voice of the people, the Comelec has made it easier for “overlords” to manipulate the results of the elections.

Before he was disqualified on the mere basis of technicality by the Comelec, presidential aspirant, former Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade wrote in the Manila Times, “We have heard a lot about this controversial Smartmatic and the fiasco it created when it was introduced in the 2010 elections. So many elections have come to pass and still we are stuck with these cheating machines. And until today we still do not understand fully how this entity is being allowed to rob us of our votes.”

The retired general continued on, “What we know is that certain candidates in previous elections paid billions of pesos in order to ensure their victory. Some paid hefty sums in order for them to have their party get accredited. Still, some have to pay the Comelec officials in order for their electoral protests to be resolved. In all of these issues, money changed hands.”

 Parlade finally quipped,” Is there a Comelec mafia?”

READ: The Comelec great cheat                          https://www.manilatimes.net/2022/01/01/opinion/columns/the-comelec-great-cheat/1827788

The question lingers as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, an attached agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, came out with the findings that the Smartmatic system has been compromised. CICC executive director Cesar Mancao has disclosed during the briefing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, that a “breach” has been found.

Hybrid elections – true solution

This is disconcerting, given the fact that just a few weeks ago, media klieglights covered the formal transfer of the Smartmatic “source code” from Comelec to the Central Bank, without the public being updated as how the breach was addressed, very much like how the automated system was introduced in 2010.

It should be remembered that Glenn Chong, spokesman for election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition (RPC) disclosed back in 2016 that the Comelec did not subject the “trusted build” of the election management system (EMS) program and as well as its newly-created version to an independent source code review to prime up the vote counting machines (VCMs) for cheating.

Chong pointed out that the non-review of the EMS source code was admitted to him by Mario Garcia, project manager of election provider Smartmatic Corp., which supplied the three programs of the Automation Election System (AES) and the 97,519 VCMs that will be used in the May 9 polls.

“I asked him why did you make the trusted build when the source code has not yet been reviewed yet? He told me that they were already short of time and thus reversed the process of coming up with the trusted build before subjecting it to a source code review,” Chong told The Manila Times.

“Withholding a piece of code from the source code reviewers, refusal to print the voters’ receipt and the sudden revisit of the source and recompilation of the EMS trusted build as a way to possibly neutralize the exit poll strategy all point to one thing – that cheating is already in place as of today,” he  said

“I will bet my entire fortune on this conclusion, Chong added.

“The source code review is all but a zarzuela. We will push for the reviewers not to give their imprimatur and not to sign the report on the source code,” he said.

But this year, I scrounged the internet for any negative responses to the 2021-22 source code review and I could not find any except for Namfrel’s proposed enhancements.

The Comelec has also announced that for the first time, the digital signatures of the members of the Board of Election Inspectors are being processed in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry, in time for the May elections.

Can we not say, however, that Comelec’s pledge of an honest and peaceful elections this year only the lack of it since Smartmatic cane around in 2010?

Senator Imee Marcos has of course introduced the hybrid system, which to me is the closest proof-positive of clean elections -where manual voting and canvassing with the use of tally sheets (the old tara system) will be enforced before the ballots are inputed into the automated counting machines, The idea is to re-introduce a paper trail when the votes are still in “small numbers”, and where the Board of Election Inspectors can affix their manual signatures to the Election Returns.

Senate President Tito Sotto, who is now running for vice president first supported it but failed to get it through the legislative mill for the President’s signature in time for the 2022 elections.

There is a lack of political will on all sides, to protect our vote count, the vox populi of the absolute sovereigns, the will of the qualified voters among the people.

Without this guaranty, wherefore is our democracy? A question that stokes not just the abolition of the Comelec but revolutionary measures for the people themselves to directly protect their voice. 

What can be more transparent than the “tara” system, the votes manually counted and marked at the tally board as demonstrated above?
In contrast using the Automated Election System, after you insert your ballot into the machine, there is no way for you to ascertain how your vote was counted, tallied with other votes and transmitted forward to the servers.

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