Congressional probe into alleged Comelec hack pushed

Congressional probe into alleged Comelec hack pushed
This file photo shows the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila.
Philstar.com / AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers are pushing for a congressional probe into the reported hack of Commission on Elections servers that allegedly exposed sensitive poll data.

Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna party-list) filed Tuesday a resolution calling on the House of Representatives’ suffrage and electoral reforms committee to investigate the supposed breach of Comelec servers, which was first reported by Manila Bulletin.

"The new reported incident of data breach of Comelec servers, if proven to be true, is a serious matter, especially with the upcoming May 2022 elections," the Bayan Muna lawmakers said. "The credibility of the coming elections will be put into question if this issue is not swiftly, independently and efficiently probed and addressed."

Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento (Samar), meanwhile, is urging the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System to convene and investigate the reported hacking incident.

Sarmiento said that it is best for Congress to step in and find out if the upcoming elections have not been seriously compromised.

"If there was a hacking incident, we need to know if this is serious enough that the poll results can be manipulated electronically," he said.

The National Privacy Commission has meanwhile set a January 25 clarificatory meeting with the Comcelec and Manila Bulletin Tech Editor Art Samaniego Jr. on the alleged data breach.

In a press statement carried by News5, NPC said its Complaints and Investigation Division has launched an investigation in response to a Manila Bulletin article on the alleged breach.

"The Comelec must address the serious allegations made in the Manila Bulletin news report and determine whether personal data were indeed compromised," it also said..

Comelec: Some files supposedly downloaded in hack don't exist

The Comelec said Monday it is verifying allegations in a Manila Bulletin report, but said that some details in it cast doubt on whether their servers were actually hacked.

"The fact, however, is that such information still does not exist in COMELEC systems simply because the configuration files — which includes usernames and PINs — have not yet been completed. This calls into question the veracity of the hacking claim,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said.

Manila Bulletin reported Monday afternoon that an unnamed group of hackers had managed to hack into Comelec's systems on January 8 and "download more than 60 gigabytes of data that could possibly affect the May 2022 elections." The report said that the newspaper had informed Comelec about the alleged hack before publication.

The automated election system has been hounded by allegations of cheating and other irregularities, although none have been proven. Comelec officials, including Jimenez, have maintained that computerized elections are more reliable and less suceptible to fraud than manual elections where votes are read out and tallied by hand. — Xave Gregorio with a report from Jonathan de Santos

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