NAMFREL: Alteration of hash code did not affect poll results

ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) on Thursday said the alteration of the election return data pack "hash code", the so-called digital fingerprint of an electronic document, did not affect the actual results of the elections.

NAMFREL systems committee chairperson Corazon Akol said in a press briefing that despite the alteration, their investigation showed no discrepancy in the election return results.

Akol explained that "hash codes" are security codes assigned to a particular set of data, which, in this case, are election return results.

A hash code in the Comelec transparency server was altered after a Smartmatic official changed the "n" character to ''ñ'' in the name of one of the candidates.

She said an investigation revealed there was no discrepancy between the data contained in the election returns and the data in the corresponding electronic data pack in the transparency server.

"It doesn't matter kung nagkamali sa data pack. Kinumpara namin ang laman ng ER for that precincts compared to the ER that was printed, there was no change. That's why we were saying that even if there were changes in the hash code, iyun laman ng ER ay hindi affected," Akol said.

Akol explained that a hash code is a security measure used to ensure that the integrity of an electronic doc, data file or a program has not been compromised.

Hence, when the correction in the name was done after the hash code was generated, the mismatch occurred.

Akol slammed Smartmatic for the "sloppy"error that led to the discrepancy of the hash codes.

"The main and real issue here would be last-minute changes in process and codes as well as lack of quality control by Smartmatic. The system is a multi-billion peso system and the error was so amateurish. In short, there was a sloppy work given to us," Akol said.

ALTERATION 'INNOCUOUS'

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has refused to concede in the vice-presidential due to the slim lead of Liberal Party VP bet Leno Robredo.

The Marcos camp earlier said Robredo caught up and overtook him in the VP race after a script was "introduced" to the transparency server. Marcos' camp suspects the introduction of the script may have affected the count.

READ: Marcos camp alleges new 'script' in transparency server 

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said Smartmatic official Marlon Garcia had to alter a script in the transparency server to correct the name of a candidate. He said the change in the script is "innocuous" and will not affect the results in the transparency server.

PRESENT ERs, MARCOS CAMP TOLD

In a separate interview, IT expert Lito Averia explained a hash code serves as the unique "fingerprint" of every computer document.

Data packets transmitted by vote counting machines to the Comelec are electronic files and would thus have individual hash codes.

One may verify if a data packet was tampered with by running a program to regenerate its hash code. The hash code of the data should be identical before and after it was transmitted to Comelec servers.

But Averia said altering hash codes would only affect vote count on the Comelec transparency server.

This, he said, would not cover election returns which would be used in the official vote canvassing by Congress.

To successfully cheat in the quick count and official canvassing, Averia said one must doctor election returns before VCMs transmit the data.

A new corresponding hash code should also be made for each election return, Averia said.

Averia added the results should be identical in the quick count and official canvassing.

"'Yung mandaraya, para walang huli, kailangan consistent ka all the way. Marami kang ico-cover niyan: iyung canvassing and consolidation system sa Kongreso at sa ilalim nun, iyung probinsya. Lahat iyun, kailangan baguhin," he said.

Averia said the Marcos camp should first present evidence such as election returns and corresponding hash codes before presuming that "dagdag-bawas" or vote padding-shaving happened in the elections.

Akol backed this challenge.

"All parties have copies of ERs from the transparency server. It would be prudent if they can show even if a single vote counting machine ER changed during the time they are complaining about this error," he said.

RANDOM MANUAL AUDIT

Meanwhile, the random manual audit of specific polling centers in 17 cities in the National Capital Region is now complete, and they are now just awaiting the delivery of its results.

Of the RMA results delivered so far, NAMFREL spotted only one case where the variance between the manual count and the machine count exceeded 10.

NAMFREL's Tomasa Lipana said these variances could be caused by difference in appreciation of the board of election inspectors and the machine or an error in adding the votes.

Nonetheless, they will be subjected to a validation process, and if the results still exceed 10, the case will be brought to the Comelec for a root cause analysis.

In Mindanao, regional desk officer Leonard Carillo said the RMA has yet to be conducted in two of the 29 provinces in Mindanao. These are Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Carillo explained the RMA team in these areas said they did not receive advice from the Comelec regarding the conduct of the RMA.

A report regarding the matter has already been sent to the Comelec.

Carillo said security concerns have prevented them from accessing the chosen precinct in two municipalities for the conduct of RMA.

NAMFREL's Eric Alviar earlier clarified that the RMA is not meant to recount the votes, but to ensure the accuracy of the vote counting machines in reading the ballots.

NAMFREL expects to complete the RMA and submit a final report to the Comelec in one month. - report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

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