The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raided the home of the former Smartmatic employee implicated in the alleged security breach in its system, according to John Consulta’s report on “24 Oras” on Tuesday.
Armed with a search warrant, the NBI-Cybercrime Division (NBI-CCD) scoured the home of Ricardo Argana, who was not there at the time of raid.
Authorities found his smartphone and some SD cards hidden in the room’s ceiling during the search.
They also dismantled the Wi-Fi router that Argana used to have access to gadgets of other five IT suspects for six days.
“May isang araw na hindi siya pumasok. Tapos hindi ko naman alam kung kaninong laptop yun. Nagtanong ako, sabi ko work from home ka? Sabi niya, oo. Yun lang. Hindi ko naman siya pinapakialaman at pinapansin kasi normal naman yun ngayon wfh naman talaga,” Mayette, the mother of Argana, said.
(There was a day that he did not report to work. Then I don’t know who owns the laptop. I asked him, are you working from home? He replied, yes. I don't interfere with him because work from home is now a normal thing.)
NBI-CCD chief Victor Lorenzo said that Argana’s contract with Smartmatic was only for six months, but part of his job is to determine the possible glitches in the machines.
“So, he was allowed to navigate yung controlled environment ng Smartmatic. ‘Yun lang ang access niya. Ang explanation niya is may mga kausap siya at in-allow niya magkaroon ng access doon sa controlled environment,” Lorenzo said.
(So, he was allowed to navigate the controlled environment of Smartmatic. ‘That’s all he has access to. His explanation is that he has people to talk to and he is allowed to have access to the controlled environment.)
“Gusto namin malaman kung may kasabwat siya or he is acting alone or sinong mga kasabwat niya kung may kasabwat siya,” he added.
(We want to know if he has an accomplice, or if he is acting alone or who are his accomplices if he had.)
Smartmatic’s laptop has been returned, but Argana already encrypted it so it won't be subject for forensic examination, according to the NBI.
Authorities are now examining the cellphone, Wi-Fi router, and SD cards found at the suspect’s house.
A total of 720 counts of unlawful access were filed against Argana. He is, however, still at large.
“I-access namin kung ano ang mga sasabihin niya, if he will be qualified as a state witness. Tignan natin kung ano ang sasabihin niya,” Lorenzo said. “Kaya lang kung hindi, continuous na sasampahan naming siya ng kaso at ang i-guarantee lang naman namin sa kanya is sooner or later mahuhuli at mahuhuli din siya.
(We will assess what he has to say, if he will be qualified as a state witness. Let’s see what he has to say. If not, we will continuously file a case against him and the only thing we can guarantee to him is that sooner or later he will be caught.)
Meanwhile, NBI Director Eric Distor said they are looking into the available digital evidence to verify the cost of the system breach.
Commission on Elections chairperson Saidamen Pangarungan earlier said that Smartmatic has confirmed that a “data leak” occurred in its system, but it was unrelated to Eleksyon 2022.—Mel Matthew Doctor/LDF, GMA News