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​​Comelec asked to assure hacking of its website won’t happen to its vote-counting machines

Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial bet Win Gatchalian expressed alarm over the hacking of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website as this bolsters fears that the vote-counting machines (VCMs) that the Comelec will use in the May 9 polls are prone to hacking and manipulation.

“Does the hacking of the Comelec website portends of things to come on May 9?,” asked Gatchalian who pointed out that several IT (information technology) experts have cast doubt on the VCMs being 100 percent hack-proof .

Gatchalian said the Comelec has a lot of explaining to do on why a group identifying itself as “LulzSec” was able to hack its website Easter Sunday and subsequently uploaded part of the Comelec’s database on its Facebook account.

LulzSec, reportedly affiliated with hacker group Anonymous Philippines, hacked the Comelec’s website, leaked the voter database and demanded that the poll body make the May 9 elections credible.

As of yesterday, the Comelec website is still accessible but the precinct finder search engine, which publishes assigned precincts of registered voters based on their names and birthdays, is still “under maintenance,” according to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

“The hacking of the Comelec website somehow contributes to fears by IT experts that the VCMs being supplied by Smartmatic are also prone to hacking and manipulation, which puts the credibility of the May 9 polls in a cloud of doubt,” said Gatchalian, who is running for senator under the Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) of presidential frontrunner Grace Poe and leading vice presidential bet Chiz Escudero.

Dr. Pelagio Battung Jr., a telecommunications engineer who served as transportation and communication undersecretary during the Ramos administration, had said the Comelec should be concerned with the VCM’s algorithms rather than their source code.

“Source code? There’s nothing there. If they will show the algorithm, IT experts of the different political parties can inspect and test the algorithm and verify if the claim of Comelec supplier Smartmatic-TIM that the machines are not hackable is true,” said Battung.

Battung’s doubts reflected those of source code reviewer Dr. Pablo Manalastas, a retired professor of the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Information Systems and Computer Science, who claimed that while the source code is secure, it can still be hacked.

Manalastas told a congressional oversight committee that he cannot discount the possibility of vote rigging and electoral cheating in this year’s general elections.

“The system is secure, but hacking the system can be done through the cooperation of people who are in charge of the data system and who have physical control of machines. It is possible to cheat with a lot of help from Comelec and Smartmatic,” Manalastas told lawmakers.

Gatchalian said it is imperative for the Comelec to assure all political parties, candidates and the voting population that all their systems, from the Internet website to the transmission of votes from the VCMs are free from hacking and other forms of manipulation.

“The Comelec under Chairman Andres Bautista owes it to the Filipino people that the results of the May 9 polls will be reflective of the actual votes made. A credible election will ensure that our elected leaders will truly be the choice of the people,” Gatchalian pointed out. (R. Burgos)