PPCRV cool on calls to suspend proclamation of winning senators

PPCRV cool on calls to suspend   proclamation of winning senators

PPCRV Command Center at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

By CBCP News

May 16, 2019

Manila, Philippines

A church-backed election watchdog distanced itself from calls to suspend the proclamation of winning senators in the midterm polls amid fraud allegations.

Myla Villanueva, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chairperson, suggested getting the transparency server audit logs was an option they are looking into.

She said that such action would help them determine what caused the seven-hour election results transmission delays on Monday night.

Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic Church, was among those urging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to clear issues first before declaring winning senators.

“As far as we are concerned that’s not our position. We just want to deal with the logs and tell the people what happened,” said Villanueva, a digital expert.

“We are going to look at the situation… and we will make sure that we can explain it to the public after we have read the logs,” she said.

The PPCRV has also requested access from the Comelec’s central server to match its data with those in the transparency server.

“I don’t think the Comelec will deny us that because they have been very transparent with the PPCRV,” Villanueva added.

Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez earlier said that there’s a need to resolve the issues “by an independent and impartial investigation”.

“Smartmatic and Comelec should be the subject of investigation,” Gariguez said.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, however, said that they can’t heed such calls only because of a mere allegation.

“If an allegation of fraud were enough to suspend a proclamation then there would never be any proclamations … It’s not conducive to orderly elections,” he said.

PPCRV to look into poll glitches

Volunteers at the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) command center in Manila continue the manual encoding of the printed election results May 15.

By CBCP News

May 15, 2019

Manila, Philippines

A church-backed poll watchdog has requested data from the transparency server of the Commission on Elections amid glitches. 

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said the situation calls for transparency to erase doubts among the people. 

Myla Villanueva, PPCRV chairperson, said the data would help them determine if the data will match with results from the central server. 

“For me as a tech person, what is important is to see why it happened in the first place. Second, the data from the central and transparency server should match,” Villanueva said.

But she said they would wait for the right time “because that is post-forensic”. 

“It is a way of auditing,” Villanueva said. “We do not want to disrupt the transparency server because it is still receiving data.” 

Logs 

The PPCRV would also like to see the logs of transparency server which stopped sending election results for several hours on Monday night. 

“We will insist on the logs,” Villanueva said. 

“This has never happened before. That’s why I want to see the logs in order that we can avoid it ever happening again,” she added.

The delay in transmission raised public concern and fuelled speculation that there might be tampering of votes.

The PPCRV also asked the poll body to allow stakeholders and independent groups to document any troubleshooting of the transparency server. 

Villanueva said they would share their recording with the information technology community for them to further scrutinize the data.

As of 2pm May 15, the transparency server shows that 84,633 out of 85,769 clustered precincts have been counted. 

The PPCRV, meanwhile, has received around 10 percent of physical election returns, mostly from the cities in Metro Manila. 

Suspend proclamation of senators 

For the Church’s social justice arm, the Comelec must suspend the proclamation of senators until allegations of election fraud is cleared. 

Caritas Philippines particularly demanded for an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations. 

“We are calling to suspend the proclamation of winning senatorial candidates until the allegation of fraud is resolved,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas executive secretary. 

The bold call was made after reports of possible fraud were received by Caritas due to major technical glitches involving vote counting machines and transparency servers. 

In 2016, only 188 VCMs were reported to malfunction nationwide. In 2019, this number increased to 400-600 VCMs.

Unresolved issues

Earlier, the Automated Election System (AES) Watch stated that “unless glaring vulnerabilities of the automated election system and the non-compliance of the critical provisions of RA 9369 are resolved, the 2019 elections will create credibility issues.”

It said that major constraints left unresolved by Comelec and Smartmatic  are the absence of public access to election data, the lack of comprehensive and credible source code review, and the lack of digital signatures.

The Comelec, since September 2018, has initiated 82 enhancements of the automated machines to ensure integrity and accuracy of the 2019 mid-term elections.

 “However, we have seen how some of these enhancements still failed during the May 13 elections resulting to the alarming perception of election fraud,” quipped Gariguez.

 “Therefore, it is but imperative for the Comelec to postpone the proclamation of the winners for the senatorial race until the alleged fraud-tainted results are validated and cleared,” he said.