Filtered By: Topstories

'Our devices can deliver better,' says Miru exec

An executive from Miru Systems on Thursday refuted the allegations raised against the South Korean firm which will provide the technology for the 2025 automated elections, particularly the claim that its deal with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is a “robbery in progress.”

In an exclusive interview with GMA Integrated News, Miru vice president Ken Cho also said that the company's machines "can deliver better."

He dismissed the allegations made by former congressman Edgar Erice that the cost for the 2025 polls was higher than the previous elections, claiming that it is the first time that the government will spend P17.99 billion for an AES.

Erice made the claim during his filing of a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to declare null and void the contract between Comelec and Miru. 

“We were the sole bidder [for the project] and it is our strong speculation that other providers did not participate because the budget was too low… So, I think that's not true,” Cho said. 

The supposed questionable track record of Miru in other countries was likewise dismissed by Cho, saying the accusations “come with the territory” regardless of who the technology provider might be. 

“There will always be politically motivated people who would put out negative messages. So, that comes with the territory and I think we are more prone to that because we're an Asian company and also that we are a technically-oriented company and we don't do much PR,” Cho said. 

“We tend to ignore those because after an election, you're bound to have some kind of negative articles just to tarnish our image. But, usually after two or three weeks at the most, that would just kind of fade away. But here in the Philippines, it's different. You notice it's different. It'll still linger on. So, therefore, we have our local partners who would handle or manage our PR side, in which we are not good at,” he added. 

The supposed machine failures and delays in the polls in Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq were frequently raised against Miru, but Cho reiterated that these claims are “not true.”

Cho attributed these accusations to the fact that when Miru provided election services for the first time in Iraq and Congo in 2018, it “coincidentally” changed the incumbent officials in both countries. 

He reiterated that the governments of Congo and Iraq had issued official statements, indicating that the conduct of polls using Miru’s systems was “very successful.”

The Miru executive likewise maintained that it scrutinized St. Timothy Construction Corporation before it entered into a partnership with it for the 2025 AES contract.

“We did our due diligence in finding right partners to make sure that we succeed in passing the Comelec's requirements, including financial side. Although we do have financial security in our company, but the requirement here in the Philippines is much higher. So we decided to go with St. Timothy to take on that part,” Cho said, adding that the construction firm will be their partner only for this particular project.

St. Timothy is one of the Filipino corporations that joined Miru Systems in the joint venture that won the P17.99-billion contract to supply the new system and automated counting machines (ACM) for the 2025 polls.

The two are joined by Integrated Computer Systems and Centerpoint Solutions Technologies, Inc. in the joint venture for the Comelec procurement.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos earlier questioned St. Timothy’s background, the sudden increase in the firm’s capital, and its supposed links to a company that was reportedly blacklisted by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Third time's a charm

It is not the first time that Miru had expressed interest in Philippine elections. 

According to Cho, Miru started in 2009 but they were not able to bid even though they have partners in Israel and in the Philippines because “the requirements back then were also very high” and they were not prepared to submit one back then. 

When they were “quite ready” in 2015, Cho said Miru submitted a proposal for the bid but it was canceled. 

“This is our third time this year. We've been very, very ready to prepare a lot to come here,” Cho said. 

But why the interest in Philippine elections? 

The Miru executive said bagging a Philippine election contract would boost the South Korean firm’s portfolio, even if the project, particularly the 2025 AES, would give them less profit margin. 

“The Philippines' opportunity, it's a very, very special reference for us. We've been trying for the past 15 years… [The] Philippines has done elections successfully [in] the past, [for] more than a decade. And we want to continue that with providing our devices, which we believe [are] much better than the other providers. This really has a special meaning to us,” Cho said. 

“While the cost to us, it does go up, but of course we have to stay within the budget. So we kind of took the additional cost to ourselves by reflecting in our financial proposal to Comelec. So it won't be an additional cost to Comelec but for us…We will take the extra cost… that means, yes, definitely lowering our profit margin,” he said. 

As the Comelec’s terms of reference for this project, particularly on the ACMs, are “very comprehensive” and its requirements are “much more detailed and much more difficult,” Cho said Miru could provide machines that are way better than what were used in the past elections. 

“Because of the bidding, the high standard of requirements of Comelec, our devices are fully capable of delivering better, I'm sorry for not being humble, but better than the predecessor, I'm sure,” Cho said. 

“Our advantage, our competitive advantage is that we designed, developed, and manufactured everything. So we were quickly able to meet the requirements that come out with the satisfactory devices for this bidding,” he added. 

For the 2025 polls, Miru will lease Comelec machines which can scan ballots and have direct recording electronic (DRE) capabilities. 

The mass production of the ACMs will start by middle of July and the first 20,000 units are expected to be delivered by the end of August, Cho said. 

Additional 30,000 units will be delivered to the Philippines every month after the August delivery, until the 110,000 units are fulfilled by the end of December 2024.—AOL, GMA Integrated News