Comelec chair brushes off hacking report, calls it 'fake news'

Published January 12, 2022, 12:56 PM

by Dhel Nazario

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sheriff Abas dismissed the report that the poll body’s server was breached, compromising voter’s sensitive information.

Comelec/MB

A Manila Bulletin (MB) report was published on Jan. 10 stating that group of hackers allegedly breached Comelec’s servers and was able to download more than 60 gigabytes of data that could possibly affect the May 2022 polls.

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Abas explained that it was “impossible” to hack information that was non-existent. He said that upon receipt of the Manila Bulletin report on Jan. 10, he immediatly called the director of the Information and Technology (IT) department to check their systems if there was actually a breach.

“After an hour, bumalik sa akin, at sinabing niyang ‘sir medyo negative, mukhang fake news yung balita’ (After an hour he returned to me and stated ‘sir it seems negative, it looks like it’s fake’),” Abas said.

“It’s because wala pa naman po tayong final na data para i-configure. Kasi January 15 pa kami mag-configure ng mga data namin na ipapasok sa system ng Vote Counting Machine. So sa ngayon sure ako na walang hacking na nangyari (It’s because we do not have final data to configure. We will be configuring our data which we will enter into the VCM’s system. So far I’m sure that no hacking occurred),” he added.

MB’s Technews team said the group was able to breach the system on Saturday, Jan. 8 and download files that included, among others, usernames and PINS VCMs.

Abas argued that no information has been uploaded yet to Comelec’s system.

“Kung sinabi nilang hinack nila nung Sabado that was January 8 so wala pang any information na naupload sa aming system. Kasi doon ka palang magkakaroon ng pin numbers at passwords kapag nalagay na sa system ng VCM (If they claim that it was hacked last Saturday that was January 9 there was no information uploaded yet to our system. You can only have pin numbers and passwords once it is uploaded to the VCM’s system),” he explained.

Abas said that the information should have been validated with them first before it was published.

“Nalulungkot lang din kami it’s because napakadaling mag-accuse pero ang impact kasi nun napakalaki kaya ngayon yung pakiusap namin sa mga media partners na bago sila sumulat o magpahayag ng ganyang klaseng information i-validate muna nila sa amin. Kasi di nila naiisip yung lawak o yung impact ng ganung klaseng report (We are upset because it’s so easy to accuse and the impact is so huge that is why now we ask our media partnerts that before they write or state information like this, they verify it first with us. They have no idea of the impact of this kind of report),” he stated.

Art Samaniego Jr., MB’s Technology Editor & IT Head posted on Jan. 11 on his verified Facebook account that his team reached out to Comelec but to no avail and that they were “ghosted”.

Fake news

Abas called the report “fake news”. This was also echoed by Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon in a tweet on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

“Hindi ko alam talaga yung purpose ng ganiyang klaseng report, hindi ko alam kung panggugulo lang but definitely that is a fake news, so if it is a fake news, talagang may malice yung pagpapalabas ng ganung klaseng report (I don’t know the purpose of this kind of report, if it’s to cause confusion but it’s definitely fake news and if it’s fake news, there is malice in releasing this type of report),” Abas said.

“FAKE NEWS : @COMELEC server was hacked, not true. Manila Bulletin editor must verify,” Guanzon said.

 
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