Comelec warns Smartmatic over breach, sanctions up

The Commission on Elections has warned Smartmatic that the security breach in its system should not happen again, adding that it was only waiting for a report from the National Bureau of Investigation before taking action against the service provider.

“We told Smartmatic that this should not happen again,” Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan said at a briefing Friday, referring to the breach as a “very unfortunate incident that created a lot of problems.”

He assured the public that the Comelec would not allow anyone to undermine public confidence in the electoral system.

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“That is our pledge,” he said. “That’s why I ordered full transparency without compromising the security of the ballots and the SD cards,” he added.

Smartmatic International said it has already fired the employee who allowed a group of hackers to copy election data from a company laptop and assured the government that the security breach did not compromise the system that will be used in the May polls.

“They emphasized to us that the data leak does not have anything to do with the elections in 2022,” said “What was leaked were data concerning [the] internal organization and activities. They assured us that the security of the ballots and the configured SD cards was not compromised by that leak,” Pangarungan said.

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Pangarungan and Commissioners George Garcia and Rey Bulay met with officials of the Comelec’s service provider on Thursday.

Earlier, Senator Imee Marcos revealed that an employee of Smartmatic supposedly allowed a group of hackers to copy election data from a laptop issued by the company.

Marcos’s revelation led to calls for a Senate investigation of the incident.

Pangarungan said preparations for the May 9 elections are now in full swing as election materials such as vote counting machines (VCMs) and other automated election system (AES) supplies will be transported to different areas of the country starting April 2.

“With merely 38 days before D-day—the May 9 national and local elections, all preparations for the elections are in full swing Pangarungan said during the signing of a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for the hosting of four online services for the polls, including the voters’ precinct finder.

The search tool will allow voters to find out ahead of Election Day which polling center and specific precinct they are assigned to on May 9.

The DICT will also host a voter registration status verifier, an online voter’s certificate application, and an election results website.

Pangarungan said the printing of manual official ballots, as well as the final testing and sealing of the ballots, is almost complete.

He said 94.68 percent of the 67 million ballots have already been printed.

“All these measures are being undertaken to make sure that your Comelec delivers fair and transparent elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said that election-related items are now being deployed from the agency’s warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to local hubs nationwide, including vote counting machines (VCM), external batteries and ballot boxes.

The VCM external batteries and the ballot boxes will be deployed until April 10.

Non-accountable forms and supplies were deployed Feb. 16 to provincial and city treasurers in priority areas. The dispatch of the VCMs, consolidation and canvassing system machines and transmission equipment will be from April 2 to 19 April, he said.

Meanwhile, official ballots and the indelible ink coming from the National Printing Office will be deployed to city and municipal treasurers from April 20 to May 5.

“Notice has been given to all political parties, political candidates, party-list groups and accredited citizens’ arms of the commission through the modes mandated by law,” he added.

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