Comelec official says Smartmatic should be held liable for ‘cosmetic’ changes on transparency server

Comelec official says Smartmatic should be held liable for ‘cosmetic’ changes on transparency server

MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that Smartmatic International should be held liable when it conducted the “cosmetic” changes in the programming script of the transparency server, thus breaching the protocol.

During a press briefing on Friday, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon told reporters that the alteration was unauthorised.

“I believe that Smartmatic has breached our protocol and they should be held accountable for it. I personally, along with another commissioner, will request for a formal investigation of this matter so that we can determine if Smartmatic has a financial and other liabilities under their contract for breaching the protocol,” she said.

Guanzon added, “This automated election system is not owned by Smartmatic. It is owned by the Comelec representing the people of the Philippines. It is owned by the government. They (Smartmatic) were not supposed to change anything without our knowledge and permission.”

The poll body official said the service provider should have asked first the permission of the Comelec en banc before acting on its own.

“What they should have done was if they saw an error they should have asked the en banc permission first, explain the problem and then explain the solution, and if were acceptable to us then we would have given the permission to do the changes,” she noted.

On Monday, Smartmatic altered a line in the programming script of the transparency server at the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Manila.

It involved the change in the programming script of the transparency server aimed only at making the system “look cleaner” by allowing the system to recognise the “ñ” in the names of candidates and instead project the character “?”.

With this, Guanzon said they are in the process of reviewing the provisions of their contract with the international service provider firm.

“They have a performance bond that we can hold. We can also, or I can, vote to refuse payment unless I am satisfied that the breach was benign,” she explained.

At the same time, Guanzon said that the changes made in the programming script did not result to any alteration of the automated election system as well as the results of the elections.

“Thank God that the result of the elections were not altered as a result of their unauthorised action,” she said.

On the other hand, Smartmatic Project Manager Marlon Garcia noted that they were transparent when the changes that were made in the transparency server last May 9.

He added that the modifications were made with proper authority from the Comelec, which has half of the password in gaining access to the program, with the other in their possession.

“There are certain issues that we should elevate to the Comelec en banc. If there are major changes in the system that has a big impact or has financial repercussions, we have to escalate it to the en banc. If it is operational or technical, the Project Management Office can decide on it. It has been the established system since Day One,” the Smartmatic official noted.

Earlier, Vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has asked the poll body to explain the changes made in the programming script of the transparency server based at the PPCRV headquarters in Manila on Monday night.

The lawmaker’s camp believes that the changes made may have links to the reason why his main rival, Rep. Leni Robredo, was able to overcome his early lead based on the partial, unofficial quick count of the citizens arm of the Comelec in the just concluded polls. Ferdinand Patino/PNA)/