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IT experts slam 'cosmetic change'

  • Written by Lee Ann P. Ducusin
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 2642

INFORMATION technology experts derided the Commission on Elections’ explanation that the changing of a script in the transparency server was a mere cosmetic change that did not affect the voting results transmitted.

Rene Azurin, of the Automated Election System or AES Watch, said the Comelec downplayed the main point which was that a personnel of the Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. had access to the server program while the canvassing was going on.

“On this news item about this script change, the main point here is being totally missed. The point here is that a Smartmatic person has access to the server program while canvassing is going on. This is a security flaw and should not have been the case!” he stressed.

Azurin pointed out that if the Smartmatic personnel can change one character in the script, he can change other things as well.

In a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the change in the transparency server script was merely a cosmetic change, which was done by the Smartmatic IT personnel in front of everyone present at the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Transparency Center.
    
“What happened was a Rappler person called the attention of the Comelec IT officer about the presence of certain question marks in some candidate’s names where the letter ‘ñ’ should have appeared. The Comelec IT officer notified the Smartmatic Technical Support Team. After being notified, the Smartmatic person validated that changing the ‘?’ characters required a minor cosmetic change, he addressed the concern by introducing a correction on the script in the presence of everyone there. The change in the script also changed the hash tag but not the source code,” Bautista explained.
    
“The correction involved merely a cosmetic change, to replace the character ‘?’ with ‘ñ.’ There was no change in the results, the counting and canvassing of the votes, and in the source code of the AES. The change in the script did not, in any way, alter the result for any candidate. It was done openly in the presence of the political parties and witnessed by Comelec’s IT officer and in full view of several people in the PPCRV Transparency Center with full knowledge that a CCTV system is in place,” he stressed.
      
Meanwhile, senior Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, head of the election steering committee, said the issue was being overblown and is being used to discredit the recent elections.
    
However, Lim admitted that there was a lapse in protocol when Smartmatic only informed the Comelec and party representatives after the change had been made.
    
“Inaamin ng Smartmatic na may pagkukulang sila. I should have been informed about these things, and in fact, even before effecting the change, they should have also announced it to the parties there. There were lapses in the protocol,” he said.
    
The commissioner said had he been informed earlier, he would not have approved the cosmetic change in the transparency server’s script.
    
“Kung in-inform ako, ang sasabihin ko, ‘Hindi na,’ kasi wala e... It just added more fuel to the allegations. I’d rather have stability. And I would rather answer questions about the question mark than the questions on the ñ,” he said.
    
The camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos on Wednesday alleged that a new script was introduced to the transparency server, which altered the hash codes of the Comelec’s packet data.
    
Marcos is running a close second at the vice presidential race, next to the administration’s bet, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.
 
They said Marcos’ lead of about 1 million votes began to erode in a rather distinctive pattern after the script was introduced.