Guanzon: Smartmatic breached protocol

Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Smartmatic had Comelec authorization, official insists

MANILA - Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Friday slammed technology provider Smartmatic for a breach of protocol when it altered a script in the transparency server in the evening of May 9 allegedly without the poll body's approval.

Speaking to reporters, Guanzon said she will push for the Comelec en banc to conduct a formal investigation on the incident to identify the possible liabilities of Smartmatic.

"There may have been no damage in terms of no alteration in the results, but there is certainly some effects because now people are anxious," Guanzon said.

In an earlier press briefing, Smartmatic official Marlon Garcia presented the altered script or hash code, which changed all "?" to "ñ" to correct the spelling of candidates' names containing the letter "ñ."

Garcia said the "cosmetic" change was only "minor" and did not in any way affect the election results in the transparency server.

"There was no results changed, okay? It's very important to keep that in mind. Only the 'ñ' replacing the '?' All the votes for Candidate A were still there, all the votes for Candidate B, everything remained the same," he said.

"There was no change in time stamps. There was no change in the amount of votes. There was no change in anything. That is all that happened," he added.

READ: Comelec: Transparency server script altered, won't affect results

READ: NAMFREL: Alteration of hash code did not affect poll results

He also maintained that there was authorization from the Comelec to input the change in the server, noting that a representative from the poll body typed in the Comelec password.

Two passwords -- one from Smartmatic and another from Comelec -- are needed before a change can be made into the system.

Garcia, however, admitted that the alteration was not brought up before the Comelec chairman or the commissioners.

He explained that only "major" alterations with financial repercussions are escalated to the top management of the poll body. Otherwise, the Comelec's Project Management Office (PMO) team can decide.

He also pointed out that political parties and watchers were present when the change was made.

"So everybody was aware of what was going on, which is the protocol that we had in place. Whenever there is a change, it has to be communicated to the political parties," he said.

"There was no harm done on this one. There was no effect, no repercussion on any results or any numbers. Basically, this is just more of a media issue rather than an impact on the results themselves."

'IT'S OUR PROPERTY, NOT SMARTMATIC'S'

Smartmatic's explanation, however, did not sit well with Guanzon, who insisted that the service provider breached protocol since it did not have approval from the Comelec en banc.

She said Smartmatic should have informed the en banc first about the problem and then gave recommendations how to fix it before proceeding with the alteration of the hash code.

"They should not have touched that program without our prior knowledge and our official consent... It's our property, its not their property.

"This was unauthorized. That initiative to change a minor thing did not come from the Comelec, it came from them. Thank God that it did not alter the results, otherwise we will be here for another year," she said.

While the change did not have an effect on the election results, the commissioner is bent on holding Smartmatic accountable.

She said she can vote to hold the performance bond of Smartmatic or refuse payment to the technology provider. She said she will also see if the breach is enough to disqualify Smartmatic in bidding for future contracts.

The least Smartmatic can do now, according to Guanzon, is to apologize to the public.

"The least that they could say to the people is that 'we're very sorry for this inconvenience.' But I am not hearing it. In the en banc and I have not seen them since, I didn't hear the words 'I'm sorry it caused you some worry,'" she said.

Guanzon apologized to the Filipino people and gave assurance that the poll body will investigate even their own people.

"Maaasahan po ninyo na hindi naman po namin ipapawalang bahala yan na lahat ng mga explanation nila tatanggapin na lang namin," she said.

MARCOS CAMP CALLS FOR PUBLIC AUDIT

The camp of Senator Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' Marcos Jr. earlier cast doubts on the credibility of the unofficial count, saying the change in the script may have affected the tally, especially in the tightly contested vice presidential race.

They said administration candidate Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo only began to overtake Marcos' lead after the change was made to the transparency server.

READ: Marcos camp wants public audit of automated poll system

In a separate press briefing Friday, transparency advocate Glenn Chong said it is not enough that the Comelec shows the original and changed script to prove that there was no cheating.

The camp of Marcos is calling on the poll body to open its automated election system and platform for audit by independent experts to dispel doubts about the accuracy of the election results.

"What is the overriding necessity? Ano ang pinakamabigat na dahilan bakit ninyo rinisk ang integrity ng buong halalan para lang palitan ang question mark sa ñ?" said Chong.

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