The source codes for the automated election system (AES) to be used in the May 9 national elections have been deposited at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for safekeeping, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec officials led by Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz and lawyer John Rex Laudiangco turned over the metal boxes containing the source codes to BSP on Wednesday.
Sinocruz and Laudiangco were accompanied by BSP Managing Director Rosabel Guerrero, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, representatives from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and select media members in depositing the source codes inside the BSP vault.
Jimenez said the source code is the heart and soul of the automated election system, adding: “We have the source code here where it’s protected from all dangers and gives us a guarantee that the source code that we will be using on election day is trustworthy.”
Guerrero said the particular compartment where the AES source codes are stored can be opened only by Comelec.
“It would be the executive director who has that key and the combination lock, which is also under the sole responsibility of the Comelec. The BSP cannot have access to that. We don’t know that combination, we don’t have the locks. So that will ensure the integrity of the source code. Nobody can open that and can have access to that except Comelec,” she said.
The Comelec and BSP signed on January 31 an escrow agreement for the safekeeping of the AES source code in relation to the May 2022 polls.
Under Republic Act 9369 to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful, credible, and informed elections, the Comelec is mandated to place in escrow the source codes with the BSP for safekeeping.
Previously, in a virtual event for the signing of the escrow agreement between the BSP and the Comelec on Monday, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said the central bank has kept source codes for four elections already, conducted in 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019.
“All source codes were deposited in the BSP’s vault. BSP guarantees that the vault assigned to Comelec is secured by a series of metal locks and combination codes, and the keys to the metal locks, as well as the combination codes are under the sole custody of Comelec officials, to ensure that the source code will not be tampered by anyone and will remain unaltered, thus preserving the legitimacy of the elections,” he said.
RA 9369, otherwise known as the Automated Election Law, requires the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to place the source codes in escrow with the central bank.
Outgoing Comelec chair Sheriff Abas echoed that the AES source codes are secured with the BSP and not prone to hacking.
“This escrow agreement we have with the BSP is to ensure that there will be no changing of the source code, which means that the instructions to the machines and the system will no longer be changed,” he said after the signing. “So it only proves that the source code which they say can be hacked, will not be hacked.”
Diokno said the central bank is “willing and ready to accept such deposit” anew in line with the need to protect the integrity of the source codes for the upcoming polls.
“BSP fully supports and looks forward to the conduct of the coming elections in a manner that demonstrates the highest standards of integrity, for the benefit of all Filipinos,” he said.
During the same event, BSP general counsel lawyer Elmore Capule said the source code will be placed in a secured vault under the central bank complex.
“So, it’s already a secured place that’s why the law specifically directed the BSP to have custody. So we are just going to implement our usual protocols in securing sensitive materials like the source code. There’s nothing more that the BSP will do,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said they will ensure that the results of the May 9 polls will reflect the true will of Filipinos.
“It is for this reason that the Comelec is once again in cooperation with one of its most trusted partners, the BSP, for the fifth time, in order to secure the AES source codes,” he said, also during the signing ceremony.
“With the BSP and the Comelec working hand in hand, it is without doubt that the credibility and the security of the 2022 national and local elections are maintained and will never be compromised. In line with this constitutional mandate, the Comelec will exhaust every possible means to ensure that the election results are reflective of the genuine will of the Filipinos,” he added.
Meanwhile, the poll body adjusted the schedules for the conduct of verification of the names of the voters and certification of the Posted Computerized Voters Lists (PCVL) and posting by the Election Registration Board.
Comelec Resolution No. 10758 moved from February 3 to not later than March 24 the verification of names and certification of the PCVL.
On the other hand, the posting of the verified and certified PCVL was changed from February 8 to not later than March 29 due to the delay in the delivery of continuous forms, A4 size papers, and printer toners.