Smartmatic cleared in server script alteration
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The fact-finding team of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has cleared Smartmatic of liability in the controversial alteration of the script of the transparency server used for the quick counts in the May 9 polls.

In a 13-page report dated July 25, the fact-finding team said there was no protocol violated when the script was changed on Election Day because such a protocol did not exist.  

“As the fact-finding team observed from its documents validation, the creation of the script and provision of Data Package and the Data Push Process were not part of any of the contract with Smartmatic,” the report reads.

Data Package and Data Push Process pertain to a system wherein the initial results of the vote counting are shown to the public through the transparency server of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

The fact-finding team had recommended to the Commission that “the payment of our contractual obligations and retention fees with Smartmatic as provided in the Automated Election System contract should proceed.”

The report shows on the night of Election Day, the attention of Smartmatic and Comelec’s information technology personnel were called because the special character “?” was appearing on the names of candidates with “ñ” in the resource files generated for the transparency server.

Marlon Garcia, project manager of Smartmatic, and Rouie Penalba, a Information technology officer at Comelec-Infomation Technology Department, agreed to announce to political party representatives present then that they would change the script.  

Since there was no comment or objection raised, Garcia and Penalba had decided to effect the change starting with the next batch of the files. 

After the script was changed, defeated vice presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. complained that he was suddenly overtaken by then rival candidate Leni Robredo in the vice presidential race in the PPCRV quick count.

Believing that the election results were rigged, Marcos filed an electoral protest against Robredo before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

In a press briefing in May, Garcia explained that Smartmatic and Comelec just did a “cosmetic change” and it would not affect the results of the elections.

“Clearer and more specific guidelines should be established…with emphasis on the strict protocols on the mode of distributions of election results via the transparency server and mirror server and the functions of each and every personnel involved,” the fact-finding team said.

They added that since the technicalities involved in the data center warrant the involvement of Comelec-ITD personnel, they should be provided with “appropriate management and operational education,” considering the “magnitude of responsibilities expected of them after all.”

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