Comelec awards P18B poll deal to Korean group | Inquirer News

Comelec awards P18-B poll deal to Korean-led group

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:30 AM February 23, 2024

Comelec Chair George Garcia


MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has awarded a contract worth almost P18 billion to lease an automated election system for the 2025 midterm polls to a joint venture led by the controversial South Korean company Miru Systems Co. Ltd.

Comelec Chair George Garcia told reporters on Thursday that the poll body unanimously approved on Wednesday the recommendation of the special bids and awards committee (SBAC) to award the contract of the Full Automation System with Transparency Audit/Count (Fastrac) for next year’s national and local polls.


All the seven commissioners signed a resolution to issue a notice of award to Miru. Garcia said the contract should be “subject to the highest standard of transparency and applicable auditing rules.”


“This means that the scrutiny of the project does not end with the awarding of the contract,” he said. “Even after it, we will involve all stakeholders, interest groups and the media to help the public monitor that the awardee will comply with each of the project milestones.”

Local partners

The joint venture includes three local companies—Integrated Computer Systems, St. Timothy Construction Corp., and Centerpoint Solutions Technologies Inc.

It offered a bid of P17.99 billion, which was below the P18.82-billion approved budget for the Fastrac project, saving the government around P839 million.

The contract will provide 110,000 automated counting machines, election management systems, consolidation and canvassing systems, ballot printing, ballot boxes and other peripherals.

The new machines would replace the 97,000 vote counting machines procured from London-based Smartmatic Corp., which were used in the previous three elections.

Smartmatic barred

Smartmatic was not allowed to participate in the Fastrac project due to its alleged involvement in a 2016 bribery scheme involving former Comelec Chair Andres Bautista.


According to Garcia, the counting machines are to be equipped both with optical mark reader, the technology used in the past elections that reads the shaded ballots; and direct recording electronic, which uses touchscreen to cast ballots that will be used by Filipino voters in countries where internet-based overseas voting would not be possible, such as China and Russia.

It was the second bidding for the Fastrac lot, following the failure of its first procurement in December. Miru was also the lone bidder during the first bidding, but it was declared ineligible by the SBAC due to lack of English translations in its supporting documents and incomplete undertaking to enter into a joint venture.


After the contract is awarded, contract negotiations will follow and this will take about a month. After that, a notice to proceed will be issued to Miru to start mass production of the voting machines over the next six months.

The machines will require international certification, which will take another month.

“We are proceeding to the most difficult stage of the contract, which is the customization of the automated counting machines,” Garcia said. “We will ensure that the machines that were shown to us during the demonstration will be of the same quality and all the specifications listed in the TOR will be present, even if these machines are mass-produced.”


According to Garcia, the SBAC was aware of the allegations of malfunctioning electoral systems and irregularities involving Miru where it was contracted in past elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR) and Iraq. The technical working group (TWG) for the project verified and investigated these allegations.

For instance, poll watchdogs in DCR such as the Carter Center, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, and the Church of Christ in Congo claimed that 45.1 percent of polling stations encountered problems with Miru’s voting machines, resulting in “substantial delays and voter confusion” during the Dec. 19, 2023, elections.

Miru had refuted this, saying it “designs, develops and manufactures secure electoral systems that are of international standard.”

“Miru is committed to an efficient and honest electoral system, as we have done so in several countries all over the world including our home of South Korea since 2005,” it added.

Surprise during demo

The TWG reported on Thursday that officials of DCR’s poll body confirmed issuing a Jan. 10, 2024, “certificate of complete satisfaction of execution of contract” to Miru for supplying the electoral materials used in the country’s 2018 and 2023 elections.

The legal officer in the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq also said that the 2018 elections in DCR were “held in generally calm and stable environment.”

During the demonstration of Miru’s automated counting machines on Wednesday at Comelec’s head office in Intramuros, Manila, Garcia said the members of the poll body were surprised at the prototype machine’s capabilities.

“All of us commissioners present did not expect that all of our wish lists in the terms of reference (TOR) we issued last year were present in Miru’s voting machines. That means, it is not the Comelec that adjusted, but it was Miru, which customized the machines based on what we want to see,” Garcia said.

Faster ballot feed

Among those in the “wish list” was increased speed in feeding ballots into the machines to 2 seconds to 3 seconds, from 7 seconds to 9 seconds in previous elections.

Voters may countercheck their votes based on the summary displayed on the machine’s screens, in addition to receipts to be issued. There will also be no need for transparency servers since all the votes from the precincts will be transmitted simultaneously to both the Comelec and monitoring stakeholders.

According to Garcia, the Comelec was aware of reports that certain individuals claim that they could manipulate the upcoming polls with help from accomplices in the Comelec’s information technology department and in the joint venture.

“They were claiming that they only need five minutes to give a sure win to candidates. They were reported to be in a few areas in the Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.

OFW vote system next

But the poll chief said these were false and assured voters that no one could “maneuver the election results.”

“They have no one in the Comelec or in the awarded provider to talk to. You are just being fooled by these criminals to get money out of you,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the Comelec will set another public bidding for the procurement of the P465.81-million Online Voting and Counting System that will allow overseas Filipinos to vote using the internet in next year’s elections.

TAGS: bidding and procurement, Comelec, Elections

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