Poll watchdog asks Brillantes: Are you spying on us?

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AES Watch issued the demand even as it asked Comelec, along with the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on AES, to secure all PCOS machines, CCS (Consolidation Canvassing System) software, ballot boxes, and other election paraphernalia needed for auditing the mid-term election system and subjecting it to forensics scrutiny. Nelson J. Celis, AES Watch spokesperson, issued the challenge following Brillantes?s admission on the existence of the intelligence fund after a budget realignment approval was made by President Benigno S. Aquino III last Feb. 20. Celis said that if it is true that the fund was sought ? quoting Malacanang spokesperson Abigail Valte ? to spy on ?the activities of certain groups, individuals, and technology experts? suspected of sabotaging the elections, then Brillantes should explain whether such intelligence operations are targeting AES Watch and its affiliates that have been vocal against the management by Comelec of the automated elections. Celis, former president of the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), demanded the Comelec chief?s explanation following the latter?s accusations against the automation critics as ?election saboteurs? engaged in an alleged ?conspiracy? to bring about an ?election failure.? Brillantes last week also threatened to ?unmask? the leaders behind AES Watch and sue them for election sabotage ? considered a major crime punishable with more than 20 years? imprisonment. ?Brillantes doesn?t have to ask the President for millions of taxpayers? money to conduct surveillance on us because AES Watch activities, studies and reports have been open and transparent from day one even before Comelec contracted the foreign company, Smartmatic, to supply the P7.2 billion PCOS voting technology for our elections,? Celis said. Celis said Brillantes has besmirched the title of the head of a constitutional body by resorting to threats and intimidation in order to silence critics of Comelec and Smartmatic. ?The Comelec chief has gone beyond the bounds of decency and fair play. He?s using his powers not only to send chilling effects on the IT community and election watchers but now, using alleged intelligence funds, he is out as well to attack our civil liberties,? he said. Other members of AES Watch also asked the Comelec to stop compromising its independence as a constitutional body by asking President Aquino to approve additional budgets of the poll body such as ?intelligence funds? in the guise of realignment. Christian Monsod, former Comelec chairman, said in a press interview that intelligence funds are a source of graft and corruption ?because it is liquidated with a mere statement that it was used for the right purposes.? In a related issue, AES Watch member Rene B. Azurin said Brillantes has admitted that a one out every four clustered precincts in the country ?experienced problems on election day?. According to Azurin, Brillantes blamed the telcos for the transmissions failure. ?It is not the PCOS that?s defective. It is the heavy traffic.? He criticized the telecommunication companies because they ?only covered around 62 percent of the country.? But Azurin said traffic from the PCOS machines was quite tiny and well within the capabilities of the country?s telcos to handle easily. It was also noted that Comelec?s traffic was handled through a dedicated virtual private network, called a VPN, and not mixed with regular data and voice traffic. There would therefore be no reason why the inability of the PCOS machines to transmit their results could be blamed on ?heavy traffic? as claimed by Brillantes, said Azurin. ?This latest statement from the ill-informed Brillantes is yet one more fabrication peddled to the Filipino public in an attempt to justify what AES Watch has called ?a technological and political disaster,? Azurin said. Earlier, AES Watch described the recently concluded elections as a ?technology and political disaster?. ?Aside from Comelec?s non-compliance ? yet again ? of the election law and the technical glitches, there was an unprecedented large-scale vote buying. Political clans are now even more entrenched with a bigger number of their members being fielded in extensive areas and perpetuating themselves in power thereafter,? it said. The group has also asked Brillantes to resign from his post as chairman of the Comelec. ]]>

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