2 senators want 3rd party audit on alleged Comelec hacking

Two senators who are running for president asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow an independent third party to look into the alleged online attack of its system.

In separate statements Tuesday, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson said the poll body must consider an audit into the extent of the alleged hacking.

“The Comelec should clarify the veracity of the hacking incident and be forthright with its findings. More importantly, it should be open to letting experts and related stakeholders help strengthen the security system, including our cybersecurity experts and those of other aspirants. Only through transparency and accountability can we guarantee the integrity of the upcoming elections,” Lacson said.

Pacquiao added the Comelec should allow political parties to conduct an independent investigation while the legislative can exercise its oversight powers to look into the issue.

“Congress should exercise its oversight powers in relation to Republic Act 8436 or the Automated Election Law. This is not the first time that the Comelec has been hacked and this shows very serious security flaws on the poll body’s computer system,” Pacquiao said.

“Hindi na ito dapat palampasin at kailangang magpaliwanag ang Comelec kung ano ang totoong pangyayari at kung ano ang epekto nito sa darating na halalan. Kailangan din nating malaman kung may nakahandang plano ang Comelec kung sakaling nakompromiso ang ating automated polling system (This should not be ignored and its impact on the upcoming elections must be revealed. We must also find out if Comelec has a contingency plan),” he added.

Prior to the 2016 elections, the NBI arrested 20-year-old Paul Loui Biteng and 23-year-old Joenel de Asis for hacking the poll body’s website.

Biteng was cleared of by a Manila Regional Trial Court of criminal liability in 2020 as “there is no direct evidence categorically linking him as the perpetrator for the crimes charged”.

While only Comelec and the Department of Information and Communications Technology can officially confirm or deny if such hacking occurred, Lacson said his party’s Comelec-accredited cybersecurity team is currently conducting its own investigation despite the limited accessibility.

“Finding out who was/were responsible is already material information just to establish the motive and who will benefit from the alleged hacking. Meantime, we have to await the response of the author/s who said they will show proof to substantiate their hacking allegations,” he added.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement issued late Monday the hacking information is non-existent yet in their systems “simply because the configuration files, which include usernames and PINs (personal identification numbers), have not yet been completed.”

He said the poll body is checking the veracity of the report, which came out in a daily broadsheet.

“Considering that ‘news’ like this could potentially damage the credibility of the elections, the Comelec stands ready to pursue all available remedies against those who, either deliberately or otherwise, undermine the integrity of the electoral process,” Jimenez said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can extend assistance to Comelec.

“We’ll let the Comelec finish its own internal probe. If a wider investigation is found necessary and NBI assistance would be useful, we’d gladly oblige,” Guevarra told reporters via text message.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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