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Cybercrime case filed against COMELEC and Smartmatic for ‘cosmetic tweaking’

Abakada-Guro partylist Representative Jonathan dela Cruz filed a complaint with the Manila Prosecutor’s Office last May 24 (Tuesday) against some employees of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and officials of technology-provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic) for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act by the tampering with the automated election system (AES) utilized in the May 9 national elections.

The individuals charged by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s campaign advisor Dela Cruz who was accompanied by lawyer Jose Amor Amorado were Smartmatic personnel Marlon Garcia, Smartmatic project director Elie Moreno, technical support team member Neil Banigued and Mauricio Herrera, and Comelec IT experts led by Rouie Peñalba, Nelson Herrera, and Frances Mae Gonzalez.
The alleged “security breach” that the complainants referred to was the adjustment Smartmatic made to the script to fix the character “Ñ” or “ñ” which appeared only as a “?” in the returns.
Garcia, one of the people charged, stated that there was no “need” to notify the Comelec chairman and commissioners regarding the “cosmetic modification.”
“There are just certain matters that need to be escalated to en banc,” Garcia previously stated.
Excerpt from the complaint reads.
“When respondents, without notice to the Comelec en banc and without securing the authority of the latter, unilaterally decided to change the script of the transparency server, they became liable for illegal and unauthorized accessing of a computer system, intentional alteration of computer data and intentional altering and interfering with the functioning of computer and computer network by inputting, deleting and altering computer data and program.
“Indeed, the act of ‘tweaking’ the script of the transparency server caused widespread anxiety and concern amongst the nation. The lapses in protocol have undermined the credibility and integrity of the 2016 elections including the confidentiality, integrity and availability afforded to computer data and systems.
“From the above premises, respondents have committed a breach in the AES that violated the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the computer data and systems thereof.
“The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is a special law. I was advised that as a special law, the nature of the offense is malum prohibitum, and as such, criminal intent is not an essential element,” the complaint read.
In an interview after filing the case, Jose Amor Amorado elaborated that all respondents charged were present in the changing of the script which according to a declaration by COMELEC was not officially authorized.
“How then was Smartmatic able to open the server without getting the Comelec password? Their presence there constituted implicit consent to the change,” the lawyer said.
Dela Cruz stated the questionable actions made by Smartmatic officers was in violation of Republic Act No. 10175 and is punishable by six to twelve years of imprisonment.

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