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Ex-Comelec exec: ‘Cosmetic’ changes raised questions

HEADS MUST ROLL OVER PROTOCOL BREACH, SAYS LARRAZABAL
/ 03:05 PM May 13, 2016
INQUIRER FILE  PHOTO/RICHARD A. REYES

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/RICHARD A. REYES

A former commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the tweaking in the script packet data of a transparency server to make minor changes in candidates’ name inevitably raised doubts on the credibility of the elections, despite the poll body saying that it did not affect vote results.

In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Gregorio Larrazabal said some people were too focused on “cosmetic” changes without realizing the implications of their actions.

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“The problem with it, some people are too focused on cosmetic improvement na (that) they don’t realize gaano kaimportante ‘yung integrity ng elections (how important the integrity of the elections is),” Larrazabal said.

“Parang hindi nag-iisip eh, ‘uy gawin natin ‘to. May nakita kami, gawin na natin. Baguhin na natin para mas magandang tignan.’ Hindi naisip na may implications there. Kung hindi mo susundin ang protocol, kung hindi mo i-log ‘yan, magdududa talaga ang mga tao,” he added.

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(It’s like they’re not thinking, “hey, let’s do this. I saw something, let’s do that. Let’s change it so it would look better.” They’re not thinking that there are implications. If you won’t follow the protocol, if you won’t log that, the people will really have doubts.)

The Comelec on Thursday admitted a lapse in protocol in the adjustment of the script data which resulted in a change in hash code, but poll chief Andres Bautista maintained that the correction was “cosmetic” and did not change the counting and canvassing of votes, and the source code of the automated election system.

READ: Smartmatic’s defense: Comelec knew about tweak in script

Calling for accountability over the incident, Larrazabal said the protocol breach paved the way for some parties to raise suspicions on the system’s integrity, especially in the tight race for the vice presidency.

“Bakit hindi sila sumunod sa protocol? Bakit hindi yung head ng stirring committee o POO ‘yung sinabihan, pagkatapos bakit hindi nikagay sa log book ‘yung ginawa? Kasi may log book diyan eh sa Pope Pius. Lahat ng gagawin mo, dapat ilagay mo dun. Hindi nilagay eh,” Larrazabal said.

“At the very least, yung Smartmatic technician, dapat they should be penalized, because it created so much ruckus that maraming nagreklamo. Ginawa ‘yan sa gabi na hindi kayo nagpapaalam sa political party, bakit? Sobra bang importante na dapat bang gawin ‘yan? Hindi naman ‘di ba?” he added.

(Why didn’t they follow the protocol? Why was the head of the stirring committee of the POO not advised and why wasn’t he the one to record it in the log book? There’s a log book there in Pope Pius. Whatever you do, you log it there. But it wasn’t recorded there.

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(At the very least, the Smartmatic technician should be penalized because it created so much ruckus that many complained. It was done in the evening and you didn’t let the political party know why? Was it so important that you just had to do it? It wasn’t was it?)

READ: Guanzon: Smartmatic broke protocol, should be held accountable

The Comelec said the political parties were informed about the adjustment only after Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia changed the special character “?” that appeared in the names of certain candidates to “ñ.” Smartmatic is the technology provider for the elections.

Officials also said the Comelec en banc was not notified before the change, except for the poll body’s IT officer Rouie Peñalba, who witnessed the adjustment.

“Kung hindi sasabihin ng political parties na ito nangyari, hindi nila sasabihin sa political parties (If the political parties didn’t speak of it, then they won’t tell the political parties.)…And with all respect to media, media is not expected to know all the nitty gritty of the technical details,” Larrazabal said.
“There are people [who] are so focused on cosmetic things that they don’t realize that there are more important things, at kung gagawin mong ganyan (and if you do that), that might affect the credibility of the elections. And right now it does,” the ex-commissioner added.

Crying computer fraud, the camp of vice presidential aspirant Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said a new script was introduced in the transparency server “from which the PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) obtains its data for the quick count,” altering the hash codes of the packet data.

The senator’s camp, however, did not present evidence to back their claims of cheating.

READ: Comelec asks Marcos: Present proof of fraud

The son and namesake of the late dictator was in leading the early count by as much as a million votes on Monday evening, but Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, the widow of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, eventually overtook him early Tuesday. As of Friday afternoon, Robredo was still ahead of Marcos by more than 200,000 votes. CDG/rga

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Commission on Elections (Comelec), Gregorio Larrazabal¸Elections 2016, Leni Robredo, protocol, Smartmatic, transparency server
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