MANILA, Philippines - The fiasco triggered by the recall of thousands of faulty memory cards has further exposed the May 10 polls to massive rigging, a former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner warned.
In an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak, ex-commissioner Mehol Sadain fears that the hundreds of compact flash cards that have not been recalled could be used to manipulate the results of the elections by using "ghost” precincts.
“Comelec and Smartmatic should take account of all those compact flash cards before these are used by some people to manipulate the results. This would be easy if the consolidating canvassing system (CCS) of the Comelec would not be able to recognize ghost precincts,” he told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak.
On Monday, the Comelec halted the testing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines following erroneous results in the count for the local positions. The winning machine supplier, Smartmatic-Total Information Management, blamed the glitch on the wrong configuration in the memory card.
Smartmatic spokesman Cesar Flores said 62,000 new flash cards were purchased and the remaining 14,000 flash cards would be sourced from the recycled cards. More than 76,000 PCOS machines are being deployed for the elections.
But in a succeeding interview with Comelec reporters, Smartmatic spokesman Flores could not say how many new flash cards have actually been purchased and how many of the defective memory cards would be recycled and reconfigured.
Sadain claimed fake results from memory cards, using the defective memory cards that were not recalled, might be used to send bogus results from non-existent precincts or even from actual precincts.
No digital signatures
He explained that it would be difficult to identify the cheats since the Comelec scrapped the requirement for the digital signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) before the precincts results are sent to the canvassing centers. “Anyone can just send fake results using those flashcards which were not recalled.”
Section 22 of Republic Act 8436 or the Automation Law as amended by Sec.19 of RA 9369 states that, "The election returns transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as basis for the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of a candidate."
The Comelec, however, in Resolution 8809, no longer requires this security feature. The Comelec supposedly removed this feature to hasten the transmission of the results.
A civil society group, the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections, petitioned Friday the Supreme Court to compel Comelec to retain the security feature.
The consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) of Smartmatic would not be able to detect if the figures it is getting were from the defective memory cards or from ghost precincts, possibly using the standby PCOS machines. There are about 6,000 spare PCOS supposedly to replace the machines that will bog down on the day of the elections.
Sadain said the PCOS machines in precincts could also be possibly used in the illegal transmission of results.
While the spurious figures sent to the CCS may be questioned by going to the election results or the ERs in the precinct level, Sadain said “it may come too late" since "candidates are being proclaimed.”
The Comelec said 5% of the total precincts, covering 3 million voters, might not be able to get new flash cards for lack of time. The 5% are located in far-flung areas, Comelec chair Jose Melo said.
Potentially, 3 million votes are vulnerable to manipulation, Sadain said. In a close fight, 3 million votes could spell victory or defeat.
The memory card mess, which happened a week before the elections, has raised suspicions among national candidates that the stage is being set for massive fraud.
Villar to take action vs cheating
Nacionalista Party presidential bet Senator Manuel “Manuel” Villar Jr., despite his falling popularity ratings, warned that he would take legal action if he is cheated of victory.
“This party will be victorious, unless magkalokohan sa PCOS machines,” Villar said during a press conference Friday at the Laurel House in Mandaluyong City.
“Depende sa makikita naming mangyayari sa halalan. Alam naman namin kung kami ay dinaya o hindi. Malalaman namin,” he added.
Villar said several sectors have already raised suspicions that the technology glitches in the PCOS were deliberate and could be part of an elaborate plot to rig the elections results.
He said he is counting on the political machinery of the NP, the most organized political party in the country, to fight fraud and carry him to victory.
“Buong-buo ang aming grupo sa buong Pilipinas at itong nakaraang dalawang araw, pinagtatawagan ko silang lahat at handing-handa na sila. Base sa report ng mga ito, we are well ahead,” he said.