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S. Korean firm Miru deemed eligible to bid in Comelec’s 2025 poll system procurement

The joint venture led by South Korean firm Miru Systems Company Limited was deemed eligible to proceed with the bidding process for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) procurement of a new automated election system (AES) for the 2025 National and Local Elections.

This was after Miru, the lone bidder for the procurement project, complied with all the legal and financial requirements for the project.

“’Yung unang phase, ‘yung ating eligibility checking, nakalusot po na-declare na eligible ‘yung ating lone bidder. The second phase is to open the financial documents dun po sa financial documents na nabasa kanina, lumalabas po na ang bid po niya ay umabot sa P17,988,878,226.55,” Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said.

During the review of Miru’s financial submission, Laudiangco said they have found a discrepancy of P2,000 in their bid but this is considered a “non-issue” as the final computation of the Comelec SBAC will be the official bid tendered by the joint venture.

The total approved budget for the AES procurement is at P18.827 billion but Laudiangco explained that under the rules, the bid tendered by the bidder should not exceed the Approved Budget for the Contract.

Laudiangco sits as the vice chairperson of the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) on the 2025 AES.

Following this, the Comelec spokesperson said Miru will be given the notice of post-qualification evaluation which will prompt the SBAC’s evaluation of the technical requirements set by the poll body for the 2025 AES as well as the verification of all the documents that the joint venture has submitted.

“Mas madugo at mas mabigat ang post-qualification process,” Laudiangco said.

According to Laudiangco, this process might take around seven to 30 days as Comelec SBAC might conduct in-person verification of documents with government offices.

During this process, Laudiangco said Miru is barred from communicating with any of the SBAC members, end-users, members of the technical working group, observers, and even the other companies who initially signified intent to join the procurement process.

Violation of this rule might result in administrative or criminal cases if collusion is proven.

During the first round of the bidding for the 2025 AES, the Comelec SBAC declared Miru ineligible for failing to meet the legal requirements of the lease contract.

This prompted the Comelec SBAC to conduct a second round of bidding where Miru still emerged as the lone bidder for the project.

Miru is joined by Integrated Computer Systems and St. Timothy Construction Corporation and Centerpoint Solutions Technologies, Inc. in the joint venture for the Comelec procurement.

In a separate interview, Democracy Watch convenor Lloyd Zaragoza called on Comelec again to check the performance of Miru in providing election services in other countries such as Congo and Iraq.

While the Comelec assured that the post-qualification process will be rigorous, Zaragoza said that Comelec should be “more prudent and stringent” in evaluating Miru’s documents.

He mentioned the P2,000 discrepancy found in Miru’s offer, saying this should serve as a red flag.”

“Baka something dapat na pag-aralan din. Bakit ganon? Nu’ng una nagkaroon ng deficiency na naman. Itong pangalawa sa financial declaration naman yung medyo hindi tumutugma based on sa submitted documents nila as opposed don sa kinompyut ng Bids and Awards Committee,” he said.

The Democracy Watch said it would write a letter to Comelec to formalize its concerns.

In December 2023, election watchdog Democracy Watch Philippines urged the Comelec to review the track record of Miru as it "expressed its deep concern over the participation" of the South Korean firm due to its recent "catastrophic failures" and "questioned" projects in Iraq and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Comelec is currently looking for a system provider for the new automated election system dubbed 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. —LDF, GMA Integrated News