Smartmatic liable for breaking protocol with script change, says Guanzon
(philstar.com) - May 12, 2016 - 10:31pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:11 p.m.) — Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Friday said that tech firm Smartmatic broke protocol when it changed a part of the code at a server handling unofficial election results and may be subject to an investigation.

At a press briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center — the operations center of the National Board of Canvassers — Guanzon said Smartmatic should have sought permission from the Comelec en banc before making what the firm said was a cosmetic change.

"No matter how benign, results-wise, it has a significant effect on the psyche of the people," the commissioner said, adding the Comelec will have its own internal audit on the change in the code on the transparency server at the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting on the evening of May 9.

"Thank God this did not alter the results. Otherwise, we would be here for another year," she said.

Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia, in an earlier briefing, said that since the change was cosmetic, there was no need to bring the matter up to the Comelec en banc. He said that the en banc — all Comelec commissioners together — is only needed for decisions with financial applications.

He added that a Comelec employee at the PPCRV center had entered the counterpart password needed to make the change. Representatives of the political parties at the PPCRV center had also been informed before the change was done, he said.

During that briefing, Garcia showed the code, which had been retrieved from the transparency server on Thursday night, saved onto a thumb drive and sealed in an envelope signed by three media representatives.

But Guanzon said that Smartmatic should not interpret the contract on behalf of the Comelec, its client. She added that the tech firm may be held liable under its service contract and may be banned from participating in future elections.

PPCRV: Data integrity untouched

PPCRV Command Center Operations head Ana De Villa-Singson, who attended the briefing, said that the group's own IT experts have checked the code and the data and that it is satisfied that the integrity of the election results data is uncompromised.

She added that PPCRV has other audit systems, including paper records of the election results, to check the data on the transparency server against. She said PPCRV has not found any inconsistencies or irregularities.

She said, however,  that the issue of observing proper protocol needs to be taken up because the script change can raise doubts about the credibility of the elections.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has questioned the change in the code, suggesting that the code coincided with a slowdown in his lead against Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo. That lead eroded and Robredo is now leading the vice presidential race by more than 220,000 votes, according to the partial and unofficial count.

Also on Thursday, Marcos lawyer and former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that parties should instead focus on canvassed votes, which will be the official count.  Canvassing of the votes for president and vice president will be done by Congress. The Commission on Elections -- convened as the National Board of Canvassers -- is already canvassing votes for senators and for party-list groups. 

Sabi ko nga [kay Marcos], hindi naman dapat. In fact, I just talked to him yesterday. Sabi ko sa kaniya, huwag na kayong maingay. Talaga namang minor lang iyon," he told reporters at the PICC.

— Video by Efigenio Toledo IV

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