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FIRING LINE: Comelec, do you copy?

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

There’s no way of sweet-coating a security breach of any system under the grand umbrella of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in a year the nation is electing a new president. We know this by experience, recalling the “Comeleaks” that happened two months before the May 2016 presidential polls.

For those who’ve forgotten, five months before Comeleaks was fully exposed by the same groups behind the hacking of the Comelec database and official website, the Manila Bulletin already informed the Commission that its system had been compromised.

Back then, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez would claim Comelec servers were not hacked while its IT experts were actually investigating the tip from the team of MB’s Tech News editor, Art Samaniego. When the truth came out, two groups owned up to the breach, Lulzsec Pilipinas and Anonymous Philippines, both claiming good intentions to expose the Comelec system’s weaknesses and act as independent “guardians” of the vote (believe it or not).

A hacker was charged with gaining access to the personal information of 55 million registered voters. That person was acquitted of all charges.

Fast-forward to today – again, two months before another hotly contested presidential polls and two months after the same MB Tech News team of Mr. Samaniego cried “data breach!” – Senate President Tito Sotto and Sen. Imee Marcos confirm a “very serious” security breach of Smartmatic, Comelec’s service provider.

Yet, Comelec and its tag-team buddy Smartmatic deny these allegations.

Comelec commissioners should not forget that all Filipino voters understand the great responsibility resting on their shoulders, being the gatekeepers of the sacred ballot. That is precisely why the Commission is always open to criticism and intrigue.

Jimenez has held the capacity as spokesperson for so long as we can remember because he has done beyond a fairly decent job over many election years. It is not an enviable job to answer for the integrity of the poll body before the media, amid the many trivialities in the Commission – among them the appointment of batches of “non-partisan” commissioners. Yeah, right!

As I applaud him, so do many friends in media. But, at the same time, we hold Dir. Jimenez by a very high standard; one that has not changed over time, appointive terms or service contracts – that is, by the standard of the truth.

The sooner the Comelec realizes that it has to face any mess in security, the faster, more effective corrective measures could be made and the easier it would be to restore voters’ trust that the poll body is fully in control of the May 9 elections. Dare to bare the truth, Mr. Jimenez.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at

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