What is a Smartmatic top official up to at the operations center of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) at 5 p.m. closing time yesterday before the scheduled transmission of election results from the country’s 78,000 clustered precincts?
Former Comelec IT Director and Automated Elections System Watch (AES Watch) IT expert Ernie del Rosario today expressed grave concerns over the suspicious presence of Albert Castro Rico, a Spanish Smartmatic official, at the command center and election server of the PPCRV, Comelec-accredited citizens’ arm. PPCRV is located at Pope Pius Center, UN Avenue, Manila.
The sighting of the Smartmatic executive came immediately before the reported wrong tally of initial election results released by the PPCRV an hour after the voting closed on Monday night. The communications director of the Comelec’s official polling partner, Ana de Villa Singson, quickly apologized to the media for the gross error of counted votes of 12 million that exceeded the number of voters in the precincts.
“The results at the PPCRV are too fast to be true, sobra pa sa mga botante, kaya ngayon nagtuturuan ang Comelec, PPCRV at Smartmatic sino may sala,” the IT expert said. This is very serious for it has a precedent in 2010 when the national canvassing center came out with an astonishing figure of 256 million votes , triple than the total number of voters, and when Melo (the former Comelec chairman) announced prematurely the results for the president before the closing of the polls.
“The Smartmatic official has and should have no business being there,” del Rosario added.
Castro Rico is the Smartmatic’s current global services director in Asia Pacific. He was also the project manager of the foreign technology supplier during the 2008 ARMM poll automation project and one of the signatories in the 2009 Poll Automation contract between the Venezuelan marketing company and Comelec.
Affirming del Rosario’s position, former Philippine Computer Society (PCS) president and AES Watch co-convener Nelson Celis said that “Smartmatic has no business dealing with a citizens’ arm that should exercise independence especially from a foreigner. Mr. Castro should explain what he was doing there.”
“There is no other reason I know why Smartmatic’s top operations man was at the PPCRV server – is PPCRV using Smartmatic’s CCS (consolidated canvassing system)?” Celis said.
Del Rosario also asked, “Is the Smartmatic official running the PPCRV operations center? Isn’t this illegal?” adding that “any intervention in PPCRV canvassing system raises strong suspicions about continued meddling by the foreign company.” Del Rosario was former head of the Comelec Technical Working Group in Poll Automation in 2008 who resigned over differences with Comelec officials on the quality standards of automating the elections.
Celis , on the other hand, noted “Chairman Brillantes bragged about less dependency on Smartmatic so-called technical support but for the past year since the Comelec decided to purchase the PCOS machines, it was always the business interests of the foreign supplier that the Commission has always upheld.”
Meanwhile, AES watch member and newspaper columnist Dr. Rene B. Azurin called the disruption at the PPCRV center a “major security breach.”
“The PPCRV disruption was not a “formatting error”; an arithmetic operation was performed, hence, it was a program error. And this program was never available for independent review. So, what is the Smartmatic person doing altering scripts when canvassing is already in progress?
PPCRV then suspended its canvassing for fours to “fix” the multi-million figures that appeared in their server.
Azurin also critized the Comelec’s arbitrary postponement of canvassing for the next day.
“I thought the Brillantes-led Comelec was 99.9999% prepared for the 2013 poll?,” Azurin asked.
“Brillantes said the official canvass was postponed to Tuesday morning because Comelec officials were tired. That is the thinnest excuse I ever heard. The whole rationale for the automation is instant results…. and they will postpone the official canvass? Results are being transmitted as polls close and they will be coming in throughout the night, so why the need for delay? Is this to allow prior review of the results so these can be altered before the ‘official’ canvass?,” Azurin added.
Azurin echoed the call of the rest of the conveners of AES Watch, a broad coalition of independent IT professionals, watchdogs, academic and non-government policy research and grassroots organizations advocating transparent and secured poll automation.
“We should stop outsourcing our democracy to foreign business interests colluding with their local vested interest partners and begin developing our own indigenous voting technology appropriate to the Filipino culture and Philippine conditions.”