Watchdog says Comelec should 'shame' candidates 'prematurely campaigning', buying votes

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2021 04:52 PM

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) should “publicly shame” candidates engaged in premature campaigning and “vote-buying,” according to election watchdog Kontra Daya on Thursday.

Kontra Daya convenor and UP professor Danilo Arao said this will dissuade candidates from engaging in these types of activities, even as he conceded these are "legally acceptable."

"Comelec should call them out, specifically denounce certain candidates, organize public hearings… public shaming, especially of the rich and powerful, is part of the democratic process," Arao said in a virtual interview with reporters.

"It’s happening in front of our faces but the Comelec does not want to call it vote-buying… if you want to be liberal, you are a candidate already because you filed your COC (certificates of candidacy)," he added. 

The poll body has repeatedly said there is no such thing as "premature campaigning" since those who filed their COC will be considered official candidates only when the campaign period begins in February.

 NO AUTOMATED FRAUD?

Arao also reacted to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez’s defense of the automated election system (AES) over electoral fraud concerns.

"There was no electoral fraud in 2019… there was no electoral fraud in 2016," Jimenez said in a series of tweets as he emphasized election protests alleging fraud have not prospered.

But Arao rebuts that “just because it has not been proven, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

“Yes, there is no case that has prospered in court in the same way that overspending is happening… but the fact that it’s happening means that it exists… but no one is hailed to court,” explained Arao.

SOURCE CODES

Reacting to the temporary deposit of the election management system (EMS), vote-counting machine (VCM), and consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) source codes at the Comelec vault in Intramuros, Manila, Arao said Kontra Daya is not concerned about any possible tampering of the codes.

The codes and the final trusted build (FTB) for the EMS, VCM and CCS were turned over by Commissioner Marlon Casquejo to the project management office (PMO) Wednesday.

“If you want to be technical about it, for as long as the hash code is clear, because there’s a hash code… for as long as the hash code is not tampered with or changed, then we can be assured that there will be no switching or hanky panky,” said Arao.

Source codes are human readable instructions for a machine to perform an operation or program.

Trusted build is performed by converting the human readable source code to executable machine code or machine-readable instructions, with adequate security measures so that the executable code is an authentic, faithful and verifiable representation of the source code.

Arao, however, stressed their group prefers open source rather than proprietary source code - the latter being the situation with 2022 automated election systems provider Smartmatic-TIM.

He said open source is “more transparent” since it allows reviewers to test the source codes.

Casquejo witnessed the FTB by independent international certification entity Pro V&V in Huntsville, Alabama and handcarried the codes and FTBs to the Philippines.

Jimenez explained the USB keys containing the codes and FTBs had to be brought to the Comelec vault because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is “not ready” at this time to receive it.

The source codes have to be held in escrow at the BSP, as mandated by the Automation Law (RA 9369).