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Comelec urged to stay vigilant amid awarding of voting machine contract to lone bidder

A lawmaker and a national political party, among others, have called on the Commission on Elections to stay vigilant amid its decision to award the vote counting machines contract for the 2025 polls to a lone bidder with past controversies.

Among those who raised concerns over South Korean firm Miru Systems was Kabataan party-list lawmaker Raoul Manuel, who said there "really is a reason for worry."

"We hope Comelec commits to incorporating all the comments from the resource persons in its decision regarding the post-qualification process. The stakes are high. We cannot downplay these worries,” he said.

At a hearing before the House Suffrage and Electoral Reforms panel, the Alliance of Networks and National Organizations for Monitoring Elections reported that 70% of the voting stations in Iraq faced issues with Miru's devices during the first round of voting, leading to a manual vote count.

Other resource persons cited Miru’s record in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where institutions such as the Carter Center, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) said that 45.1% of polling stations encountered problems with the electronic voting machines provided by Miru, resulting in substantial delays and voter confusion during the December 19, 2023 elections.

Political party Aksyon Demokratiko, represented by former Caloocan lawmaker Edgar Erice, also expressed apprehension over Miru since the South Korean firm submitted a prototype for Comelec’s evaluation which, he said, is a violation of the Automated Election law.

“This machine is a prototype. It has never been used in any elections. In Congo, they used a direct-recording electronic (DRE) machine. In Iraq and in Korea, they used an Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machine. And this combination of OMR and DRE machines has never been tested in any elections,” Erice said.

“We will be a guinea pig of this kind of machine. We cannot use prototype machines in automated elections. It will put our elections in grave danger,” he added.

Poll watchdog Kontra-Daya, for its part, found Miru’s performance in Argentina “very concerning.”

“Some NGOs and cybersecurity professionals found vulnerabilities in the Miru machines that made them susceptible to manipulation. They found numerous entry points that bad actors could exploit to manipulate the vote count,” the organization said.

Mountain Province lawmaker Maximo Dalog Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, earlier clarified that Miru is not yet guaranteed to get the contract since the Special Bids and Awards Committee still has to make its recommendations, subject to the review of the Comelec en banc.

Miru systems has maintained that allegations of election failures due to its technology are false.

“The company designs, develops, and manufactures secure electoral systems that are of international standard,” Miru said.

It also cited that the election committee of Congo issued them a certificate of satisfaction following their elections, and there were also third-party organizations such as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq observing all elections in Iraq and declaring them as fair and successful.

Further, Miru said that Iraq Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani has said that the most recent 2023 elections included "a notable success" due to the way the elections proceeded in Kirkuk, overcoming delays that persisted since 2005. — BM, GMA Integrated News