Like It Is

Manipulation?

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Was there manipulation of the results of the last elections? I don’t know. I’m no computer expert, as my son will readily attest. I’m writing this, as I always do, with pen and paper.

But I watched a documentary two weeks ago that was greatly disturbing. It showed how you could very simply preprogram the result of a CF (compact flash) card if you had access to it, and do so without it being detected. Only a manual count to compare the results would expose it, which is why I’m in favor of doing a comparison in selected areas where there’s a possibility of erroneous results.

I can’t see why the government parties would cheat. They were destined to win the majority that the President would need to accomplish his agenda. The opposition—it’s not really an opposition—wouldn’t have had the access. So, on a national level I don’t think the pressure to cheat was there. I’ll sadly recognize—because some of those who I think better deserved Senate seats didn’t get them—that the Senate result was the correct result.

But at the local level it could be different. A mayoral candidate would only have to preprogram some 400 to 1,000 CF cards, depending on the size of the city or municipality. Even a governor would only have to pay for around 5,000 to 10,000 changes, or less if just key areas were chosen. Pay? Yes, of course, that would be the motivation. And only two groups could do it—someone in the Commission on Elections or someone in Smartmatic. To avoid law suits I won’t tell you which one I think it is, but the documentary I saw points pretty strongly to one. As far as I can determine, only the Comelec and Smartmatic had access to those cards.

For instance, there were hundreds (or was it thousands?) of technicians hired to do a last-minute rewrite of the CF cards just a week before the 2010 elections. It wouldn’t cost much to have some of them working with election operators to preprogram CF cards. A candidate willing to pay for an assured win could prove irresistible to some. All you’d have to do is put in a base number of, say, +200 votes per CF card for the candidate to be balanced by a -200 applied to his opponent. A huge 400-vote differential per precinct to overcome, with the total still being correct.

There is also another area where cheating could have occurred. The law requires that all clustered precincts transmit election results via wireless, wired, or satellite-based connection, or a combination of those, immediately and directly to the municipal canvasser, the Comelec transparency server, and the databases of accredited poll watchdogs. Or, where there is no adequate telecommunications signal, in some cases hand-carried to municipal or city canvassers—something that could take a few hours (and be manipulated on the way). Then transmitted to the Comelec central server in Manila.

Despite these clear-cut procedures, a member of the Smartmatic staff was reportedly caught by a computer expert affiliated with the United Nationalist Alliance tampering with the election results in the transparency server. The alleged manipulation of data was reported by The Daily Tribune. This, if it occurred, was a clear deviation from the procedures set by the law, and provided an avenue for large-scale manipulation.

There is no question that there were some unfinished results weeks after May 13, Election Day. Party-list winners were proclaimed two to three weeks after the elections, while the final tally for the senatorial race was released just last week. This is a failure that the Comelec needs to explain, and we expect it to. These delays open the door for cheating. The Comelec had confidently said ALL results would be known within two days to one week, but they weren’t. Why? An answer, an acceptable answer, must be given.

This is only the second time we’ve had automated elections, and it’s a gargantuan task—over 18,000 positions to be filled, nearly 37 million voters (based on a turnout of 70 percent) to be accommodated in around 77,000 clustered precincts. I shudder at just the thought of the task. But it was done and, in the main, credibly.

But it’s the “in the main” we have to watch. “In the main” isn’t good enough; it must be the 99.995-percent accuracy that the Comelec demanded. But it wasn’t. Initial reports on the Random Manual audit show much lower accuracy rates.

There may well have been no anomalies, but the fact that there were weaknesses in the system that could have been exploited, as well as the number of questions being raised, means an audit needs to be done to ensure there hasn’t been any cheating, or to catch who did it if there has been cheating. The Comelec must allow independent bodies to do random checks of the results and of suspicious areas. If the Comelec does not readily agree, Congress must force it (the President presumably can’t, as the Comelec is an independent body).

For 2016 the election results must be unquestionably accurate. It’s far too important an election for it to finish under question. I suggest we need a new supplier, a new, less vulnerable system and equipment. Lessons can be learnt from this exercise; they must be.

The Comelec has some explaining to do. Let’s hear it.

* * *

A thought on how to live life: Planes are safer on the ground, but they’re meant to fly.

And this one I was sent is applicable for Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares: Stop hunting in the zoo and go after the wildlife. I’m hearing too many complaints from legitimate taxpayers of new, stricter controls but not enough news of big tax cheats being caught.

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  • Fulpol

    And this one I was sent is applicable for Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares: Stop hunting in the zoo and go after the wildlife. I’m hearing too many complaints from legitimate taxpayers of new, stricter controls but not enough news of big tax cheats being caught.

    ————————-

    she won’t run after the “protected” party.. the “protected” wildlife areas.. who protects the wildlife area??

    a group of gay monkeys inside a Palace located along the stinky Pasig River…

    • ProPinoy999

      lol

  • farmerpo

    Flash cards, in lay man’s terms, are containers of data not programs. Programs are in the machine where the flashcards are inserted to be read. Being a non-computer experts as you say, you should have consulted a programmer or system analyst with a modicum knowledge of how a computer works and how a program is installed for all applications the program is designed for.If indeed, the machines that reads the flash card were reprogrammed to favor any national or local candidate, no need for a tally. The source code within the program will show a ‘hard coded name of the favored candidate’. Or for a faster verification, suspect flash cards can be read thru a suspect machine then on a control machine and results can be compared. In IT parlance Sir, verification of this kind of data manipulation is ‘peanuts’ or no brainer. It is usually assigned to a data control clerk.

    • nice_boy

      The program installed in the PCOS machine is generic. It’s main job it to read the ballots and accumulate the votes that were read at various locations in the ballot. The numbers assigned to each candidate pertains to the specific spot in the ballot. Of course validations such as ballot authentication, markings, over voting, etc., are also in the program. The key is in the flash cards. The settings that assigns the ballot locations to candidates is in the flash cards. This is where cheating can occur. It is not necessary to re-set all the flash cards. Just a few to ensure a win in a local election. The integrity of the flash cards before and after elections must be ensured if we are to have an honest and correct election result.

      • Edgar Lores

        Thanks for that clarification. Mr Wallace assumes that manipulation can only be done at the local level and not at the national level. This may be incorrect.

        If a mayoral or provincial candidate can pay a technician to have the CF cards’ settings ‘rewritten’ in his favor, why would it be impossible for the technician to rewrite the selections for senatorial candidates at the same time?

        I take it that ‘rewrite’ means redirecting the votes of the non-paying candidate and attributing these to the paying candidate. This is a one-to-one case. Does this mean that, at the senatorial level, votes for an unpopular senatorial candidate can be redirected and added to a favored candidate? This is a many-to-one case. Or, in a one-to-one case, the votes for Legarda can be redirected to Poe?

        In fact, can a many-to-one scenario happen at the local level?

      • haybuhay69

        to enlighten further, its actually very easy, let me demonstrate,

        The cheat would pre load votes in the CF cards for a candidate, then lessen another candidate’s votes. This would not even require to hack the source code or put in hard coded counters. You can study the source code forever and not find fault.

        ex.

        Candidate A = +50
        Candidate B = -50
        example, the total voters are 300 for a precinct,

        Actual results

        Candidate A = 120 votes
        Candidate B = 180 votes
        Total = 300 votes

        Cheated results

        Candidate A = 170
        Candidate B =130 votes
        Total = 300 votes

      • Edgar Lores

        Thanks. I understand the math, but I do not understand the physical methodology. There are two elements. The first element is the election machine which contains the source code, which will scan the ballots, and update the CF card with each vote. The second element is the CF card which contains the ‘key’ to interpreting the ballot, which gets updated by the machine as each ballot is scanned, and which stores the results of voting.

        For one election machine in a precint where cheating takes place, are there two CF cards or just one? In my first post, my assumption was that there was only one CF card, and manipulation was being done through modification of the ‘key’.

        If there are two CF cards, then one can be ‘pre-loaded’ as you say. The other is fed into the machine, is updated by the machine as the voting takes place, but is discarded. This would mean that the pre-loaded CF card must also be pre-loaded with votes not only for the local candidate(s), it must also be pre-loaded with votes for the national candidates.

        If there is only one CF card, then the addition-subtraction must happen outside the voting event, preferably after the precint has closed. That is, part of the actual results are manipulated through the election machine, or through another machine, say, a laptop, that is capable of updating the CF card.

        Either way, both the local and national results are subject to manipulation.

      • haybuhay69

        exactly pre, before the voting happens. most probably before the CF cards even reach their destinations. There is only one CF card pre. And the loaded ones are the ones actually used. To enlighten further:

        sa example ko sa taas

        Candidate B at the start already have negative 50 votes, so pag may bumoto, -49 na, then -48, and so on.

        yung candidate A naman eh from the start already have plus 50, so pag may bumoto sa kanya, 51, 52, and so on.

        Look at it this way, these voting machines are mere calculators which add by one, the source code may be flawless, but the data may be not.

        Tama ka rin, it can be done for any candidate, the catch is, the balance at the start should always be zero. so kung magdagdag ka for a senatoriable, dapat magbawas ka rin from another

      • Edgar Lores

        Thank you very much. So just one CF card with pre-loaded positive and negative votes. There’s a possible catch in that the negative votes may not be ‘exhausted’ and still remain in the negative. This should raise a red flag.

        And, yes, it can be done for any candidate, local or national. So Mr Wallace is wrong in saying that the national results are ‘clean’.

        But the source code should do a preliminary check on the CF card to verify that there are no pre-loadings. So the source code is not flawless.

      • haybuhay69

        yun lang, hehe, mast probably ang check lang nila is if there are 0 votes in the CF card, with the pre loaded votes cancelling out each other, 0 talaga ang lalabas.

        And tama ka rin sa assumption na pano kung nagkulang yung negative votes, kaya malamang eh surveyed yung precincts na nilalagyan nila nito, para walang sabit.

      • foreignerph

        The data can be encrypted with a key like PGP that can only be decrypted in the reading machine. If on the way from voting machine to reader the cards are tampered with, it will only lead to invalid data. The problem will then of course be to keep the key secret, and knowing the PH a bit, this is virtually impossible since everybody is for sale.

  • Vic_Usi

    Little knowledge is dangerous. No knowledge is even more dangerous. Mr Wallace, please stay out of areas where you don’t have any expertise.

  • $20926843

    A new reliable electronic voting system as this columnist wish would be adopted this coming 2016 election? That is a wish for the star considering that this SOB Comelec Chair brilliantes and the inutile and autistic president in malacanang has full trust and confidence to the reliability of this controversial PCOS machines Unless another revolution will happen in this country,, nothing shall be changed. That is the curse the country will have to endure under the MADONNA Complex political disease brought about by the mother child aquino successive presidency.

  • sugbugrove

    Admirable non fiction ..keep it coming and more power to yo ,Sir.

    • ProPinoy999

      I agree sir

  • WeAry_Bat

    I never thought of that, preloading results like it was a celphone. Aside from having hacks modify the executable code, then replace the original.

    But there is a validating counter to it – counting the voters not the votes. If the computed number of votes (and non-votes) exceed the number of actual voters, there you catch it.

    You may have votes computed to be less than or equal the actual voters, it is the upper range.

  • tarikan

    After every election in the Philippines, this talk about CHEATING always persists. There must be something wrong somewhere. If not in the government it’s in the people. Filipinos must be congenital CHEATERS. It would take maybe God’s lifetime to erase this word CHEAT in the mindset of the nation. “Ako ang simula” ng cheating, is that it?

  • milespacker

    I think the main reason why so many pols and their “experts” wanted to have a copy of the source codes was so they could exploit the program’s weakness and “seamlessly” hack into it. I am with COMELEC with regards to the issue of limiting access and verification of the source code by a single credible 3rd party prior to the elections.

    Even after the elections, only limited access should be allowed, the reason being that: I think even if Smartmatic changes the source codes for the next elections, the new codes would not change that much from the previous ones.

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