Barbers claims operator offered e-fraud for P50M

Losing Surigao del Norte gubernatorial bet Robert "Ace" Barbers appeared before the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms hearing on Monday to elevate his concerns regarding the recently concluded elections in his province.

Barbers, who lost to his opponent, claims a man, whom he refused to identify, approached him November 2009 offering his group's services at a cost of P50 million to ensure his victory at the polls.

Barbers said the man said that the results of the elections could be rigged, and that this would be done by switching compact flash cards after the final testing and sealing.

Barbers said he paid no attention to the offer, but he felt he was dipped in ice-cold water upon hearing the news sometime before elections that all compact flash cards had to be replaced because of configuration problems.

Barbers also showed a video of an alleged Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) member cutting the side margin of a ballot for it to fit into the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine--still in Surigao del Norte--and another BEI shading a ballot on behalf of a voter.

As a result of these incidents, Barbers described the polls as incredible, especially since his entire slate lost. He claimed his opponent's camp won despite not having campaigned much at all.

Aside from Barbers, defeated Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor also claimed having been approached by a so-called operator who reportedly offered him the same type of operation to guarantee his win.

On top of these new issues raised by Barbers, similar complaints on the time stamps were raised and the supposed vulnerability of the compact flash cards to be switched.

Smartmatic President for Asia Pacific Cesar Flores, in response, insisted that cards cannot be configured other than by those authorized at the Cabuyao warehouse in Laguna province.

IT expert says e-fraud possible

An IT expert, Al Vitangcol, who was invited as a resource person by the committee, gave his expert opinion on the cards:

he attested that it will actually take just a minute to copy the reconfigured program into the compact flash cards, which is why, he said, it was not impossible for Smartmatic to be able to reconfigure the cards at the last minute;

compact flash cards could be preprogrammed to shave or pad votes, as long as someone had the configuration.

But Smartmatic insisted their technicians do not have the configuration programs, and that the programs are kept safely at the Cabuyao facility, known only to a handful of Comelec and Smartmatic officials and under the supervision of the Technical Working Group.

The committee is also asking for all import invoices of Smartmatic for the importation of 60,000 plus compact flash cards when these had to be reconfigured following the discovery last May 3 that there were problems in reading votes for local contests. This, after one lawmaker raised suspicion why these cards arrived on May 8.

Flores said the cards did not arrive all at one time last May 8 or just 3 days before Election Day, and that only 12,500 cars arrived in the Philippines that day, the balance of the 60,000-plus they ordered .

The hearings will resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. (abs-cbn)

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