Comelec Signs P18B Deal with Miru Systems for Automated Counting Machines

IT’S A DEAL Commission on Elections Chairman Erwin Garcia (second from left), Miru Systems President Jinbok Chung, Commissioner Rey Bulay and Miru’s Valerie Ann Manahan hold copies of the signed contract on Monday, March 11, 2024. Photo by Rene H. Dilan
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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently signed an P18 billion contract with South Korean firm Miru Systems to lease 110,000 automated counting machines (ACMs) for the 2025 midterm polls. This decision comes despite a pending court case filed by Smartmatic Philippines Inc., which questions its disqualification from all election-related bids and procurement.

Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia stated that in the absence of a court ruling, the commission will proceed with its planned timetable. However, he also emphasized that the poll body would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, where the Smartmatic case is currently pending.

Garcia reassured the public that the Comelec has nothing to fear as all their actions have been aboveboard and in compliance with existing laws, including the Government Procurement Reform Act. He emphasized that a restraining order from the Supreme Court would not impede the automation of the 2025 national and local elections.

“We have to automate the national and local elections regardless of the Supreme Court’s disposition, as resorting to manual elections would be a violation of the law. The law provides for automated elections in 2025, and that is what we will adhere to,” Garcia explained.

In November 2023, the Comelec en banc issued an order disqualifying Smartmatic Philippines from participating in all bids and election-related procurement. The decision was based on a questionable procurement from Smartmatic during the 2016 elections, when the Comelec was headed by Juan Andres Bautista.

The en banc resolution highlighted that Bautista, the former chairman of the commission, was formally charged in September 2023 in connection with allegations of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp. The resolution also mentioned the establishment of a foreign shell company by Bautista, which was allegedly used to receive bribe payments from Smartmatic. These charges against Smartmatic and Bautista have become public knowledge and have raised concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.

Smartmatic denied the allegations, stating that they were based on news reports and unofficial leaked documents that have yet to be verified. The company emphasized that investigations or indictments do not automatically amount to guilt, nor do they affirm one’s innocence. Smartmatic asserted that punishing them before the definitive conclusion of an investigation would be premature and inconsistent with Philippine law, including its procurement laws.

The company also highlighted its long-standing partnership with Comelec since 2008, emphasizing that all legal suits and election protests have been dismissed in the past. Additionally, recounts conducted since the first national automated election in 2010 have affirmed the accuracy and reliability of Smartmatic’s technology.

Despite the ongoing court case and allegations, the Comelec has chosen to proceed with the contract for automated counting machines. The commission recognizes the importance of automating the national and local elections to ensure compliance with the law and to uphold the integrity and robustness of democratic institutions.

As the 2025 midterm polls approach, the Comelec remains committed to conducting fair and transparent elections. The use of automated counting machines aims to streamline the voting process, enhance accuracy, and provide timely results. The commission will continue to monitor the developments of the court case while proceeding with preparations for the upcoming elections, ensuring that the democratic rights of the Filipino people are upheld.

Source: The Manila Times

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