De Venecia: Only 30 hackers needed to rig automated polls
By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SAN CARLOS CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — Is it really difficult to manipulate the results of the first-ever automated elections in the Philippines, as the Commission on Elections insists?
Comelec information chief James Jimenez and Smartmatic officials during a talk with Inquirer editors on Tuesday night, claimed it would be difficult to monkey around with the count in the PCOS machines because each machine would have its own code of protection and poll observers could, at any time of the counting, check on the results transmitted by one machine and compare that with the tallies being sent to the municipal, provincial and national centers. They added that any tampering with the results of any machine would surely leave a trace.
But Jose “Joey” De Venecia III, a self-proclaimed IT expert running in the senatorial race is convinced that one need not be a rocket scientist to maneuver the outcome—and some 30 people can do the job.
He said this lean group of operators would be enough to rig votes in about 20 percent of precincts around the country on May 10.
“A handful (of people) can do it,” De Venecia, who belongs to former President Joseph Estrada’s ticket, told reporters on Tuesday here.
“You just need a computer guy to be able to do it remotely. You can hack into (the system). They can hack into the servers of the Comelec.”
Estrada warned of a political chaos in the event that the automated elections failed.
“I’m … sure there would be violence, there would be a revolution because the people have been yearning for an election,” he said.
De Venecia said cheating could be done by setting up what he called a “rogue terminal” or a computer configured to look like the official PCOS machines made available by Smartmatic-TIM Corp.
“It can transmit anything,” said the candidate, who blew the whistle on overpricing and kickbacks in the $329-million National Broadband Network project in 2008 after his company failed to land the deal.
De Venecia said any extra space in the memory card of any PCOS machine could also be used to add votes favorable to a certain candidate.
“They can play with that,” he said.
De Venecia was not too optimistic about the success of the elections, pointing out that it once took him one year to automate a bank.
“We take a lot of risks here,” he said. “(Cheating is) a lot easier than manual (voting). This is all electronic.”