Time to get rid of computerized elections

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2017 - 12:00am

We usually have our New Year’s Eve celebration in our ancestral home as we live up in Capitol Hills. However since I was nursing a slight fever I stayed inside my house a few yards from our family home. But at the stroke of midnight, Cebu City lighted up like Baghdad when Desert Storm commenced, but with a huge difference. Ten years ago, the pyrotechnics would started 30 minutes before midnight and end 30 minutes later. But this time around, it only started five minutes before midnight and ended 10 minutes later.

It was indeed a very subdued New Year’s Eve revelry, which Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial attributed to the warning of Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte who threatened to arrest people using firecrackers. But with only 350 reported injuries as compared to a thousand in the past years, this was perhaps the best news of all. But I don’t believe that people got scared by the warning of Pres. Duterte because we heard a lot of pyrotechnics greet the New Year 2017. But thankfully… people are more careful now.

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For geeks and techies, all roads lead to Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which celebrates its 50th anniversary today. CES gives us a glimpse of how technology has gone far into the future with robotics becoming a reality, where self-driving cars would soon be out in our roads, all sorts of gadgets from smarter phones to smart drones can be check and tested and ordinary computers doing extraordinary things, called Artificial Intelligence.

CES is among the world’s biggest trade shows, and last year drew 177,000 attendees over exhibit space of 2.47 million square feet (230,000 square meters). This year, 150 countries will be represented. It will include big industry names such as Sony, LG and Samsung in electronics, with the perennial battle to have the sleekest most gorgeous television screen. I have always wanted to fly to Las Vegas for the CES, but somehow it just starts too early in the New Year. But every year technology outdid itself and we can certainly expect a lot of new technologies from CES.

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Did you know that US President Barack Obama in his last days in the Office of the President expelled 35 Russian diplomats as a retaliatory measure over an intelligence report that Russia was involved in hacking the 2016 US Presidential elections? Pres. Obama wasn’t clear on how the Russians hacked the elections. Well, he is still the President of the USA and can do what he pleases. I guess this shows how sore a loser is Pres. Obama.

But what does incoming President-elect Donald Trump thinks about this issue?  Donald Trump issued a statement saying, “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong.” Trump was referring to the US Intelligence reports after the 9/11 terror attack that made the US led Coalition forces to invade Iraq. In the end, there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. The US lead Coalition Forces called Desert Storm went to war based on wrong intelligence reports.

So when Donald Trump was asked specifically about the hacking by Russia, he had this to say, “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation. I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge.” Well, supposedly today or tomorrow, Donald Trump would reveal something about the hacking in a presscon so until that time, we await what he has to say about this incident. In the meantime, the expelled Russians already arrived in Moscow… those diplomats are mere pawns in a global chess game.

Back here at home, I urged the Duterte administration to make it a priority program to get rid of our computerized election system, which has made billions for Smartmatic and surely thanks to hacking it has elected into office politicians who did not win votes by their constituents, but by computer programs designed to help a political party win the polls. Many countries that already tried to computerize their elections have reverted back to pen and paper, as it is the only sure way that candidates get elected properly.

In fact, President-elect Donald Trump has a good advice when he said; avoid computers when dealing with delicate or sensitive material. He added, “If it’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.” He is right you know. All the military computers in the Pentagon have been hacked one way or the other by the Russians or by the Chinese or some creepy geek behind a computer. This includes the computers of Smartmatic and why isn’t there any investigation on the hacking of our 2016 polls… really boggles my mind.

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Email: vsbobita@moscom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com.

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