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Comelec says systems can thwart foreign interference

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections is preparing to defend its servers from attempts to hack it in the 2025 midterm polls, its chairperson announced on Wednesday.

This comes after warnings that certain foreign entities may be looking to disrupt the conduct of the 2025 elections, where the Philippines is set to use for the first time a fully automated system. 

“That is what we are doing. The reason why the preparation is early. Procurement is timely. This ensures that the system is tested and all security measures are put in place,” Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said in a message to reporters.

Garcia added that the poll body's information technology is set to include in its hardware and software features that will "ensure the protection against any cyberattack."

“Of course the readiness of our IT personnel matters much coupled with our learnings from the past,” Garcia said.

Garcia's assurances of a hack-proof election IT system in 2025 comes after warnings by National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya that there could be possible foreign interferences in next year's elections.

Malaya said this is based on "a consistent pattern abroad" where foreign interference was detected in "elections in most democracies."

In rare and detailed public accusations, three countries, the United States, Britain and New Zealand, recently accused Beijing-backed hacker groups of orchestrating cyberattacks on lawmakers and key democratic institutions. China has since denied these accusations.

Malaya said that attempts to influence the outcome of the 2025 polls could be as "subtle as troll farms or disinformation to sway the public to a certain political thought" or as serious as outright hacking into electoral databases or interfering with the counting of votes.

In 2016, the Comelec's systems were breached by hackers who publicly released voters' personal details online — a cyberattack that was also described as potentially the world’s biggest government-related data breach.

This year marks the world's biggest election year in history as over 60 countries worldwide are set to or have held national elections. 

According to a 2024 report