December 22, 2022
By Anjali Kochhar
Rien Lewis Pecson, a 12-year-old from Makati City, has developed the Philippines’ first non-fungible token (NFT)-enabled blockchain voting platform.
Called iVote.ph, the site allows people to vote on the NFT artwork — created by 28-year-old graphic designer Neil Fernandez — depicting each of the Philippine presidential candidates for 2022.
Users sign up with their mobile numbers and are then assigned unique tokens. Answers are recorded as individual, anonymous transactions on the blockchain, which means the voter’s personal data isn’t exposed, though anyone can see and audit the results in real-time.
Pecson learned software development from his mother, who herself says she’s self-taught as far as blockchain is concerned. Liezl Pecson, 34, is the chief information officer at a fintech startup in Mandaluyong, a city in Metro Manila. She said writing software isn’t a core part of her job, but she slowly picked it up from colleagues and the internet.
Shortly after the first lockdown was imposed on the Philippines in March 2020, Liezl and her husband, who also works in IT, were both forced to work from home. They then decided to homeschool Rien and his two younger siblings. That’s when Rien blossomed, she said.
On iVote, out of six presidential candidates, the polling results — totaling nearly 3,800 votes so far — overwhelmingly favour Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator. Bongbong has been in the lead from the time of iVote’s Oct. 25 launch to the time this story went to press.
According to an analysis by a Forkast news journalist, that raises a few questions. She mentions that the underlying blockchain protocol of iVote is powered by Cloudchain, which is operated by First Shoshin Holdings Corp (FSHC) — which in turn is owned by husband and wife Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. (“Jack”) and Salvacion Ponce Enrile (“Sally”). Jack is the son of Juan Ponce Enrile, a close ally and Defense Minister of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The elder Enrile is often described as the architect of the Philippines’ martial law.
She further points out that on Nov. 5, the 97-year-old Enrile and his daughter Katrina Ponce Enrile forged an alliance with Marcos Jr. at the latter’s house. That means the influential Enrile family behind the blockchain supporting iVote is publicly endorsing Marcos Jr. for president in the 2022 election, while Marcos Jr. will support Katrina’s bid for a seat in Congress.
All of this isn’t to suggest that the results on iVote are manipulated — but the issue does underscore the two Holy Grails of blockchain voting: security and transparency.
Coincidentally, the Philippines in September did mock trials for blockchain-enabled voting, with the goal of rolling it out to its overseas population by 2025. But in a recent interview with Forkast.News, Election Commission spokesman James Jimenez said they also realized it would take time before people warm up to blockchain voting, the journalist noted.
“One of the things we noticed was that people were very hesitant to use the technology, mainly because they had doubts about its security,” Jimenez said. “Of course, we hope to address that in the future by showing them that the security for remote voting is intense — that it goes beyond what normally would be considered adequate”.
About the author
Anjali Kochhar covers cryptocurrency stories in India as well as globally. Having been in the field of media and journalism for over three years now, she has developed a sharp news sense and works hard to present information that goes beyond the obvious. She is an avid reader and loves writing on a wide range of subjects.