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Comelec urged to review Miru's track record amid 2025 poll system bidding

An election watchdog has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to review the track record of the leading bidder in the procurement of the new automated election system (AES) for the 2025 national and local polls.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Democracy Watch Philippines, one of the official observers of the ongoing procurement process for the 2025 polls, "expressed its deep concern over the participation" of South Korean firm Miru Systems Company Limited, citing its recent "catastrophic failures" and "questioned" projects in Iraq and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We urge Comelec to give Miru's track record a thorough once-over as part of its due diligence, as it should with all suppliers. It might want to investigate the company's alleged links to controversies in Congo and Argentina," Democracy Watch Philippines said.

"Such concerns over hacking vulnerabilities and vote manipulation are so grave as to have prompted watchdog groups and independent experts to flag many fatal weaknesses in Miru's technology publicly," the group added.

The election watchdog said it was alarmed by reports of Miru's technology malfunctioning involving 70% of voting stations on day one of the recent elections in Iraq, which it said forced authorities to revert to manual count and caused widespread chaos and wholesale erosion of public trust.

It further noted the breakdowns and technical errors in 45.1% of Miru-supplied machines in Congo which it said caused delayed voting and confusion among voters.

"We trust that the Comelec will raise these issues in the interest of ensuring the integrity of the 2025 elections. We cannot have counting machines failing at such a massive scale, as this would cause political instability in the country," the group said.

"Before it's too late, we appeal to the Comelec to act with utmost prudence and only consider vendors that demonstrably uphold the values of a secure, transparent, and genuinely credible Philippine election. Our very democracy is at stake. May wisdom and discernment reign in the procurement process," it added.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia refused to issue a comment on Democracy Watch Philippines’ statement.

“No comment. Being the HOPE [head of procuring entity], everything is still with the SBAC—[an] independent body. We cannot be perceived as influencing the bidding the process. Everything will be fair and transparent,” Garcia told GMA News Online. 

During the opening of bids for the 2025 NLE AES, a joint venture led by Miru emerged as the lone bidder for the procurement project.

However, it was declared ineligible by the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) due to its failure to follow the requirements provided under the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Following the declaration of "failure of bidding," the Comelec SBAC will open the second round of bidding for the 2025 AES procurement on January 4.

The Miru-led  joint venture can still join the second round of bidding as long as the deficiencies and defects of its bidding documents are addressed, according to Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco.

The Comelec is currently looking for a system provider for the new automated election system dubbed as the Fully Automated System with Transparency Audit and Count (FASTrAC).

FASTrAC is an upgraded optical mark reader (OMR) paper-based automated elections system with Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) capabilities.

The system features the Automated Counting Machine (ACM), which is intended to replace the more than 90,000 vote counting machines (VCM) used in the 2016 and 2019 elections.—Hana Bordey/AOL, GMA Integrated News