The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has announced that it will be holding the second round of bidding for a new fully automated election system (AES) on January 8. This system will be used in the 2025 National and Local Elections (NLE). The Comelec spokesperson, John Rex Laudiangco, stated that the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) expects to complete the opening of bids and declare the lowest calculated bid from eligible bidders.
Once the lowest bid has been declared, a mandatory post-qualification evaluation will be conducted. This evaluation will validate and verify all the documents submitted by the bidders, ensuring compliance with the eligibility checklist and technical specifications provided for the Lease of Full Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count (FASTrACT).
According to the rules, the SBAC-AES has a timeframe of seven to 30 days to verify, validate, and attest to the legal, technical, and financial requirements from the date of the declaration of the bidder with the lowest calculated bid. After confirming that all submissions are in order, the SBAC may declare the lowest bidder and responsive bid. This will be followed by the issuance of a notice of award (NOA), contract, and notice to proceed (NTP).
In the event that the second round of bidding fails, the Comelec is permitted to explore alternative methods of procurement under Republic Act (RA) 9184, also known as the “Government Procurement Act.” However, this alternative method can only be pursued after a second failed bidding, as stated in Section 25.1.5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) or EO 40, and Section 53(a) of RA 9184.
The first bidding, which took place on December 14, 2022, was declared a failure due to the lone bidder, the Joint Venture of Miru Systems Co. Ltd., Integrated Computer System, St. Timothy Construction Corp., and Centerpoint Solutions Technology Inc. (MIRU-ICS-STCC-CPSTI), being deemed ineligible. Laudiangco explained that Miru Systems Inc. was declared ineligible for failing to fully comply with the legal requirements for eligibility to bid under RA 9184, resulting in the failure of the bidding process.
Despite being ineligible in the first round of bidding, Miru Systems Inc. may still participate in the second round. Laudiangco also mentioned that two other firms have expressed their intentions to participate. He emphasized that any entity can join the public bidding by purchasing the bidding documents for the second cycle. If the second round of bidding also fails, the Comelec may resort to alternative methods of procurement under RA 9184.
The FASTrACT, which was first unveiled to the public on May 4, 2023, is an upgraded optical mark reader (OMR) paper-based automated election system with Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) capabilities. It introduces the Automated Counting Machine (ACM), which will replace the outdated vote counting machines (VCM) used by the Comelec in the 2016, 2019, and 2022 elections. The VCMs are considered obsolete by current technology standards.
The Comelec’s decision to hold a second round of bidding for a new automated election system demonstrates its commitment to ensuring fair and transparent elections in the Philippines. The use of advanced technology, such as the FASTrACT, will help streamline the voting process and enhance the accuracy and efficiency of vote counting. As the Comelec moves forward with the bidding process, it remains dedicated to selecting a reliable and secure system that will uphold the integrity of future elections in the country.
Source: The Manila Times