Group sues Smartmatic, Comelec for sabotage
A group on Wednesday sued officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and technology provider Smartmatic for electoral sabotage in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the controversial alteration in the “script” of the poll body’s transparency server.
The camp of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claimed that the alteration in the data packet led to the manipulation of the unofficial tally of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which showed his closest rival, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, taking the lead from him in the vice presidential race.
But activist priest Robert Reyes, convenor of Mata sa Balota Movement, quickly doused speculations that his group was working for Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Citing his experience as an anti-Marcos seminarian, the priest said he did not vote for Marcos in the May 9 balloting and that he would be happy if the senator’s opponent would win as Vice President.
“I’m against the father and I’m definitely against the son winning in the elections,” Reyes told the Inquirer. “I will be sad if (Marcos) wins, but I will also be sad if he loses through cheating.”
“This is not about my political preference. The issue here is protecting a democratic exercise and the conduct of a free elections,” he said.
Also known as the “running priest” for his penchant to go on jogging to highlight the issues he was promoting or protesting, Reyes said Comelec Chair Andres Bautista’s explanation regarding the sudden introduction of a new script, or computer command, in the election body’s transparency server was not satisfactory.
Bautista earlier said the modification, which was done by Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic on the night of Election Day, was a mere “cosmetic change” intended to allow the computer system to recognize the letter “ñ” in the candidate’s names.
“We’re not accepting the explanation of Bautista that it was just a cosmetic intervention. It may just be the tip of the iceberg. We should not be satisfied,” Reyes said.
Reyes said the Comelec and Smartmatic should have also allowed accredited IT (information technology) observers to look into the alteration to quell speculations that the election results were manipulated to favor some candidates.
Named respondents for allegedly violating Republic Act No. 9369, or the election automation law, were Garcia, PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa and “John Does and Jane Does” from the Comelec and its technology partner Smartmatic.
In a 14-page complaint, which it described as a “class suit,” the group represented by Rodolfo Javellana said the incident was a “classic example where the respondents, in conspiracy with each other, exercised their duty in bad faith, maliciously, arbitrarily and capriciously.”
“The intentional manner within which a new computer script or program was introduced… was so gross and patent as to amount to an evasion of positive duty enjoined by law to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful, credible and informed elections,” read a portion of the complaint.
Just data receiver
“Irrespective of whether or not the change in the script altered the results if the electoral process, the mere change thereof is a prohibited act under Section 28 of RA 9369,” it added.
The PPCRV said it was just a receiver of data from the Comelec and was not involved in tweaking the script in the transparency server.
Ana de Villa Singson, PPCRV media and communications director, made the statement after Mata sa Balota Movement included the group in its electoral sabotage complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The PPCRV is the citizens’ arm of the Comelec and is headed by Singson’s mother, Henrietta de Villa.
Only officials of the Comelec and Smartmatic, the provider of the vote-counting machines, could touch the transparency server, according to Singson.
The PPCRV and other organizations granted access to the data are only receivers of what is sent to the server, she said.
“We did not change the script. Why would they blame us for changing the script? Did the PPCRV even touch that script? We don’t have access. None of us 10 receivers in that Comelec server room can touch that script,” she told reporters.
She said some people may have thought the transparency server belonged to the PPCRV because it was housed in the compound where its offices were located.
“We are receivers here. We don’t have the power to change anything, really,” she added
The PPCRV conducted a partial, unofficial count of the election results based on data transmitted to the transparency server.
But it shut down its screens showing the count on Wednesday since the Comelec was set to officially proclaim the winners of the senatorial race.
Singson said the PPCRV did not want to create any confusion as Congress was set to convene next week to canvass the votes for presidential and vice presidential candidates.