MANILA (UPDATE) - Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Tuesday bared alleged irregularities in the 2016 polls and called for an investigation into the matter.
Sotto, who ran for reelection in 2016, said he received information from a "concerned and impeccably reliable" source that there was an early transmission of votes and foreign access to the election servers used.
The senator's revelation came after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it plans to purchase vote counting machines used in the 2016 polls from technology provider Smartmatic.
"If we don't do anything to clear the doubts as to the legitimacy of the previous election then we put at risk the accuracy of the 2019 elections," he said in a privilege speech at the Senate.
Smartmatic faced criticism after the controversial alteration of the script of the transparency server of the automated election system during the polls.
Sotto alleged that transmission of votes began as early as May 8, 2016 even if the Board of Canvassers only convened on May 9, 2016.
Early transmissions of votes involved the municipality of Libon, Albay and Angono, Rizal, according to Sotto.
Sotto also alleged that during the election period, a server from the United States made a supposed intrusion into the local election server.
"There were a series of access before, during and after the election," he said.
"The time stamps indicate that accessing is being done precisely every minute and this is only possible to be done by machines," he added.
The alleged intruder made use of the username" e360sync," which Sotto said is a server in amazonaws.com, a cloud-computing service in the US.
Sotto also noted that the username used by the supposed intruder bore striking similarities with "E-360," a software product of Smartmatic.
"Our election servers were allegedly accessed remotely and information gathered were copied and submitted to a server in the amazon cloud services in the United States," he said.
Sotto urged the Senate to launch an inquiry into the alleged irregularities to hold responsible officials accountable and to avoid a possible repeat of such in the upcoming 2019 midterm polls.
"I believe that the outcome of any investigation on this matter will surely lead to a more accurate and transparent system and results for the coming 2019 elections," he said.
COMELEC TO COOPERATE
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the commission "shares Senator Sotto's call to determine the accuracy of this allegation."
"The commission understands the grave importance of this matter. We think this is a good opportunity to get the ball rolling… we want to reach out to Sen. Sotto to get copies of the documents he has or any other documents he has pertaining to this matter. We think [it] is very important to get to the bottom of this thing," Jimenez told ANC.
Jimenez added that the Senate probe might affect the preparations for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May.
"This might actually become a timeline issue but certainly we will cooperate, we will be part of the investigation, we want to find out what went down, and what this thing is all about," he said.
"We will make the necessary adjustments, but certainly it’s not improbable that this might have an effect on the timeline. I just cannot say for certain yet how badly the timeline will be affected, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that there is that possibility."
Several proposals are pending at the House of Representatives seeking another postponement of the village polls.