SENATOR Imee Marcos has called for a joint congressional oversight committee (JCOC) to convene as soon as possible, amid rumors that the country’s automated election system (AES) has been hacked and may lead to a failure of elections.
Marcos’s call as chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation follows a Senate resolution that she filed last week to investigate the conflicting media scoop and government denial that personal data privacy and cybersecurity controls in Commission on Elections (Comelec) servers were breached the past weekend.
Among the government agencies and private groups that the Marcos committee has lined up to attend the upcoming hearing are the Comelec, the National Privacy Commission, the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (DICT-CICC), the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division, the Manila Bulletin, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), Democracy Watch, and Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) / AES Watch.
“I fear a failure of elections could be declared and a Constitutional crisis would arise if our election system has indeed been severely compromised. A record number of 67 million registered Filipino voters may be deprived of their right to elect a new president, vice president, and Congress in May,” Marcos said.
“Despite the uncertainty, we hang on to President Duterte’s promise during last month’s global Summit for Democracy that honest, peaceful, credible, and free elections will push through,” she added.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, a failure of elections can be declared due to fraud. Republic Act 7166 also states that the “causes for the declaration of a failure of election may occur before or after the casting of votes or on the day of the election.”
Hackers claim to have gained access to 60 gigabytes of sensitive AES data on Comelec personnel, local and overseas Filipino voters, vote counting machines, and voting precincts, but the Comelec contends that its servers remain secure.
“The vast degree of hacking reportedly involved has fanned rumors that certain local and foreign groups are flirting with a failure of elections scenario. The JCOC and the electoral reforms committee will get to the bottom of this,” Marcos assured.