De Lima seeks Senate probe into Comelec data leak

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima is seeking a congressional investigation into the leak of data of some 55 million registered voters in March 2016.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate electoral reforms committee, filed Senate Resolution 260 on Monday, January 16, seeking to conduct a legislative inquiry into the extent of the damage of the data breach into the Commission on Elections (Comelec) database.

The probe is meant to “preserve” the sanctity and integrity of the electoral process, said the senator, who was an election lawyer before she joined government.

“The rising number of Internet vigilantes who tamper with our people’s right to privacy should be everyone’s cause for worry. The need to preserve the right to privacy should be paramount,” De Lima said in the resolution's introduction. 

“This right should be made available to all regardless of one’s stature in our society. The Comelec data breach is everyone’s problem. A repetition of this breach is everyone’s problem. Online lawlessness should be nipped at its bud,” she added.

De Lima said the hacking was unacceptable. She said a person’s private information should be protected "against unlawful access and manipulation, fraudulent misuse, authorized usage, unlawful destruction, alteration, interference with, and contamination."

“There is no denying that the Comelec data breach that occurred is indeed unacceptable, and that those responsible should be fully prosecuted and punished, whether they are foreign or domestic actors,” she said.

The Comelec had maintained that no confidential information was compromised, but the National Privacy Commission recommended criminal charges against Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista for supposedly failing to ensure the privacy of voters’ data.

In response, Bautista said that the privacy body's decision was based on "misappreciation of several facts, legal points, and material contexts."(READ: Comelec's Bautista: Punish the hackers, not the hacked)

The data leak involved the following records:

Hackers were able to access these data in late March and made it available to the public through a searchable website. The website was soon taken down.

In her resolution, De Lima noted that the website containing sensitive data on Filipino registered voters was found to have been bought from a US-based web-hosting firm and was allegedly hosted in Russia. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.