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Sotto seeks probe of poll fraud

POLL IRREGULARITIES Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III exposes alleged irregularities committed during the automated balloting in May 2016 in a privilege speech on Tuesday. —EDWIN BACASMAS

Senators Panfilo Lacson, Grace Poe and Juan Miguel Zubiri got zero votes in hundreds of polling precincts in the May 2016 elections because of alleged fraud in the automated balloting, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.

And, according to Sotto, speaking to some reporters after delivering a privilege speech, six candidates benefited from the alleged fraud but he refused to name them.

Lacson got zero votes in 819 precincts and Zubiri in 693, Sotto said on the floor after his speech, which he described as based on information given to him by a “concerned and impeccably reliable source.”

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Results ‘altered’

Sotto did not give the number of polling stations where Poe, a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, got zero votes.

Quoting the source, whose name he did not disclose, Sotto said the alleged fraud “altered” the results of the balloting in those precincts.

He said he received the information after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had decided to buy the vote-counting machines of Smartmatic Inc., which has been supplying the government with voting computers since 2010.

The Comelec decided to buy the vote-counting machines
for use in the 2019 midterm elections.

“To me, this decision is a bit problematic, given the numerous unresolved issues that Smartmatic is being accused of in the conduct of the … 2016 national elections,” Sotto said.

The information needs to be looked into, as the alleged fraud may be employed again in the 2019 elections, he said.

Two allegations

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In his speech, Sotto asked the Senate to investigate two allegations raised by his source—votes were transmitted a day before the May 9, 2016, balloting and that the election servers were accessed by a foreign party.

Sotto presented a copy of logs on the main server, which was used for all the vote-counting machines and the consolidated canvassing system.

Using the main server logs, Sotto showed that transmission of voting results began as early as May 8, 2016.

He said the transmission originated from a cluster of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines “in the municipality of Libon, Albay.”

“The early transmission activity continued until May 9, 2016, in the morning, prior to the official conduct of election,” he said.

Sotto said each level of data transmission could be traced through the logs.

Explaining how automated balloting works, Sotto said election returns from the PCOS machines were transmitted to the central server, then to a transparency server, and then to the municipal board of canvassers (MBOC).

The MBOC then transmits the results to the provincial board of canvassers, where the results are collated and then transmitted to the national board of canvassers where the results for national positions are canvassed.

“In summary, there has been an alleged early transmission of votes by certain [vote-counting machines] to the MBOC,” Sotto said.

Foreign access

“These are only examples of the numerous early transmissions to different municipal and provincial boards of canvassers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” he added.

He said Smartmatic would say the transmissions were only tests, but the transmissions that registered on May 8, 2016, could not be tests because Smartmatic made its last tests on April 23, 2016.

On the claim that election servers were accessed by a foreign party, Sotto said a series of access took place before, during and after the election, and the logs showed access was made every minute and possibly done from the United States.

Sotto showed that a username e36sync was used in accessing the main server on May 10 and 11, 2016.

This username “made a malicious activity that is categorized as a critical intrusion to a computer system” on May 8, 2016, he said.

He said a username e360 was found and it was a server in amazonaws.com, a cloud computing service in the United States.

“To dig deeper, the username e360 looks very similar to a software product of the Philippine election provider, Smartmatic,” Sotto said.

This showed, he said, that the election servers were “accessed remotely and information gathered [was] copied and submitted to a server in the Amazon cloud services” in the United States.

Sotto’s speech was referred to the Senate electoral reforms committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon.

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TAGS: 2016 poll fraud, Grace Poe, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Panfilo Lacson, Vicente Sotto III
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