Are the vote counting machines (VCMs) that will be used in the May 9 polls safe from hacking and manipulation?
Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial bet Win Gatchalian threw this query to the Commission on Elections following the hacking of the poll body’s website recently.
“Does the hacking of the Comelec website portend of things to come on May 9?,” asked Gatchalian, a Valenzuela City congressman.
Gatchalian, who is running under the Partido Galing at Puso coalition, noted that several information technology experts have already aired strong reservations about claims by Smartmatic that the VCM’s are 100 percent hack proof.
The veteran lawmaker said Comelec has a lot of explaining to do on why a group identifying itself as “LulzSec” was able to hack its website on Easter Sunday and subsequently uploaded part of the Comelec’s database in its Facebook account.
LulzSec, reportedly an affiliate of the 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.
The poll body’s website has not yet been fully restored but is already accessible.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez admitted that the precinct finder search engine is still “under maintenance” and cannot be accessed.
“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.
Dr. Pelagio Battung Jr., a telecommunications engineer who served as transportation and communication undersecretary under the Ramos administration said 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.
Gatchalian said it is imperative for the Comelec to assure all political parties, candidates and the electorate 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.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian got the endorsement of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada whom the former president expects to push strongly for a pro-poor legislative agenda. Aside from Gatchalian, Estrada also endorsed the 11 other senatoriables.
“We humbly accept Mayor Estrada’s support for our senatorial bid, which we believe will greatly increase our chance winning a seat in the Senate” said Gatchalian. He believes Estrada’s endorsement “is still significant particularly among the D and E classes as well as in Mindanao.”
He said: “Mayor Estrada’s endorsement further validates our proposed measures that seek to promote economic prosperity for all, especially the indigent families who will benefit the most from state aid.”