MANILA, Philippines – Days before the national elections, the 1Sambayan opposition coalition launched the Honest Open Philippine Elections (HOPE) mobile phone app, which allows citizens to protect their votes on May 9.
“The purpose of the HOPE app is to empower every Filipino voter to protect not only his or her vote but also the vote of all voters in his or her precinct,” said lead convenor and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
The app is a joint initiative by 1Sambayan and Cornerstone Technologies, which is represented by lawyer Ria Villanueva-Dam. It is free to download on Android and iOs.
How it works
The 1Sambayan claims the app will give the country’s 65 million voters the chance to become poll watchers on election day.
Users can report their election-related concerns through the app by using the platform’s chat and call feature.
To use the app, individuals can take a photo of the system hash code that can be found on the bottom of the election return, which the public has access to in their precinct.
The system hash code must appear correctly on the election return for votes to be accurately counted. If the code doesn’t appear, Carpio said it’s possible that the operating system code of the vote counting machine has been compromised.
Carpio said the HOPE app can also do a quick tally of the votes.
1Sambayan convenor Howard Calleja said the coalition has enlisted the help of lawyers, IT professionals, BPO experts, security professionals, accountants, statisticians, and other professional volunteers to address concerns made from the app.
Likewise, individuals can become vetted volunteers by the 1Sambayan by getting credentials to become part of the group’s physical and virtual call-center agents.
On security and accessibility issues
This is not the first time 1Sambayan released an app related to the high-stakes 2022 elections. The opposition coalition previously released the 1Sama campaign app in 2021, but it was marred by security breach concerns and was later discontinued.
To reassure volunteers, Villanueva-Dam clarified that the HOPE app has been vetted by cybersecurity professionals and has undergone vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. The app is only available for local download, which Villanueva-Dam says reduces the risk of hacking.
For users who do not have internet access, the group recommended taking advantage of the call feature, which uses 1Sambayan’s toll-free numbers.
With the help of the various party lists under its wing, 1Sambayan will deploy in-person poll-watchers in more than 100,000 precincts in the country. The group has also allotted its headquarters space to house in-house volunteers that will attend to calls and other poll-related concerns.
A ‘guardian’ of the Filipino vote
Carpio said that this app is the first of its kind to audit or “hack” the Philippine automated election system, which he believes is marred by a lack of transparency.
1Sambayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares likewise said that the system is flawed, saying that “the noble vision of an automated election has floundered in the sea of un-transparency.”
“This is a quick count app, quicker than any quick count in Philippine elections history,” said Colmenares.
Many electoral concerns have been raised since the COMELEC rolled out voting preparations locally and abroad. Since the beginning of overseas voting, some OFWs have reported pre-shaded ballots in Dubai, Singapore, and other foreign voting centers.
The COMELEC also faced printing transparency issues last month. – Sabrina Joyce Go/Rappler.com
Sabrina Joyce Go, a Rappler intern, is a fourth year international studies major from De La Salle University. This article was reviewed by a Rappler reporter and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.