Hontiveros: Comelec award of VCM contract to Miru ‘disturbing’

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to award the P18-billion vote counting machines contract to South Korean firm Miru Systems Company Limited was “disturbing” amid its alleged questionable track record. 

In a privilege speech, Hontiveros questioned the lack of bidders for the AES contract for the 2025 National and Local Elections (NLE), saying it is the “largest single contract in Philippine election history” dwarfing the P25 billion poll automation funding from 2010 to 2022. 

“What raises questions, Mr. President, dear colleagues, is the bidding for the richest single contract in Philippine election history was only able to attract a single bidder: a Joint Venture composed of South Korea’s Miru Systems Co. Ltd., and Philippine companies Integrated Computer Systems, St. Timothy Construction Corporation, and Centerpoint Solutions Technologies,” the senator said. 

On March 11, Comelec and Miru signed the contract for the lease of an automated election system for the 2025 elections.

The P17.99-billion contract will cover around 110,000 machines and peripherals including ballot boxes, laptops, and other printing requirements for the 2025 NLE. 

GMA News Online sought the side of Miru through its public relations officer and will post its response as soon as available.

Hontiveros raised the possibility of “bid suppression” among companies, wherein one or more competitors agree not to bid or withdraw previously submitted bids so that a designated bidder will win. 

“Napakalaking kontrata, walang ni isang bidder? Yes, Smartmatic was disqualified because of its own money laundering controversies, but there were others. Bakit biglang naglaho na lang?” she said. 

(This is a big contract and yet no one wants to bid? Yes, Smartmatic was disqualified because of its own money laundering controversies, but there were others. What happened to them?)

“Is this real competition, or is the real competition in the back rooms of the halls of power? I hope not,” she added. 

Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act mandates that all public procurement be done – with certain exceptions – through competitive bidding.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros reiterated the allegations of election failures that Miru is facing in Iraq and Congo, adding that its election machines were even dubbed as “cheating machines” in Congo. 

She likewise questioned the presence of a blacklisted construction company in Miru’s local partners in the joint venture. 

“Just what is a construction company doing leasing voting machines to the Filipino people? A construction company that appears to share principal office address of another company ….blacklisted by the Department of Public Works and Highways, as shown by this document,” she said.

“Is this true? If even a blacklisted company smells something fishy, maybe that should be considered a double red flag?” she added. 

Lawmakers, election watchdogs, and other groups earlier expressed concern and called on the Comelec to stay vigilant and review Miru’s track record.

However, Miru Systems earlier said the allegations of election failures due to its technology were false.

It was declared ineligible in the first round of bidding in December 2023 for its failure to meet the legal requirements of the lease contract. The Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee conducted a second round of bidding where Miru submitted new documents.

In January, Miru was deemed eligible to proceed with the bidding process after complying with all the legal and financial requirements for the project.—LDF, GMA Integrated News

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