Comelec’s vote-counting machines, hackable, ‘expert’ claims
Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez demonstrates how the vote-counting machine (VCM) works, during a congressional hearing on poll automation, Tuesday. Senator Koko Pimentel urged the Comelec to provided printed receipts to allow voters to check if their votes were properly scanned.(MNS photo)
MANILA (Mabuhay) – A man claiming to be an automated elections expert said the vote-counting machines (VCM) that will be used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the May elections are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.
Dr. Jin Battung, who claims having ties with the Israeli founders of instant messaging app Viber, said the claims that the VCM’s source code was “unhackable” meant nothing as it was the machine’s algorithms that the Comelec should be concerned with.
“This one, it is hackable… Don’t talk about source code. Ano ba ang source code? Panloloko lang ‘yan. Source code? There’s nothing there. What you have to do- algorithim… ,” Battung said in a media forum on Saturday.
Battung said that suspicions about the VCM’s capabilities would’ve been eradicated if the Comelec let each party observe the VCM’s algorithm with their own bevy of experts.
“Kung yung algorithm, yun yung ipakita nila, yung PDP-Laban, from Liberal, from Nacionalista, kunghi-hire ng kanya-kanyang IT expert- papasok kaming IT expert and then we run off the algorithm, dun namin makikita kung yan nga ang lumalabas,” he said.
“Kasi yung algorithm nun, iba dun sa sinasabi ng PCOS (precinct-count optical scanners). I’m very sure of that,” Battung continued.
However, time has run out for parties to send in their own experts to verify the safety of the machines.
“We lack time now. Kapag ginawa pa natin ‘yan, hahaba nang hahaba, mawawalan tayo ng eleksyon. It’s better to have an election and we’ll talk about that later on,” Battung said.
Despite Comelec making it clear that the VCMs to be used for the 2016 polls are different from PCOS, Battung feared that VCMs may still have the same glitches as the 82,000 PCOS machines bought by the government in the 2010 elections.
The IT expert said the PCOS refused to read the names of some candidates in the previous elections, proving they had memory cards that could be used to rig the elections.
“You recognize some of the names and one of the name was not recognized, it only shows that PCOS machine has a memory,” Battung said.
He continued, “How many candidates in the national elections on vice and president has the letter M?… If the PCOS really carries a memory, I can transverse the candidates with M or the candidates with B from the president up to the senator and transfer it to the vote of the higher up.”
Battung then name-dropped two candidates in explaining his claims on the alleged vote swapping.
“When the PCOS recognize M, the PCOS can either put all the M on top. And what is that M on top? If the PCOS will leave some M in the senators, he could transverse it into the upper level and it will be read as M- Mar or Mar Roxas, whatever, and the other one will be Marcos. Pwede nilang i-tamper. Binay, Miriam also,” Battung alleged.
Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that the 2019 elections don’t need to use the leased PCOS from Smartmatic, though he argued that these matters could be settled by the next administration.
“Itong VCM is just under lease. Hindi tayo- hindi tali yung kamay natin (na sa) 2019 at 2022 yan po ang same system na gagamitin natin. That’s one good thing. Pero after election na lang natin debatihin yang option to purchase na ‘yan,” Pimentel said.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said on Balitanghali on Monday that PCOS machines will be used again in the 2019 elections.
Voter verification needed
Pimentel accused the Comelec of pre-empting calls to activate either the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), or the receipt printed after casting vote, or the on-screen verification functions of the VCMs.
“Ang problema, tinali na ng Comelec ang mga kamay nila when it comes to the paper receipt because they did not order the quantity of paper needed to give the receipt… There is still the screen. Ang screen prinogram nila na 30 seconds automatically maga-out na,” he said.
Jimenez announced earlier that an additional seven hours may be needed to account for the additional 13 seconds needed to print receipts, which could be used in vote-buying or disrupting elections in precincts.
Should Comelec revert voting times back to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of its jumped up closing time of 5 p.m., the PDP-Laban president says the voting body could afford to give voters enough time for verification.
“Wala naman akong narining na clamor from any significant sector of our society na iklian ang voting period. There is no clamor- ang clamor ay para magbigay ng resibo o ipakita sa screen,” Pimentel said.(MNS)