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“Urgent Answers’ from Comelec re Award of contract to Miru sought by democracy watch

Democracy Watch

Election watchdog Democracy Watch Philippines (DWP) is urging Commission on Elections (Comelec) to answer the many questions which it said remain unaddressed regarding South Korean firm Miru Systems Co. Ltd., its technology and questionable past performance.

The pronouncements came after Comelec granted to Miru Systems the P17.9-billion contract to count votes for next year’s midterm election.

Democracy Watch warned the Comelec that the South Korean vendor’s proposed system is illegal and hence could put the future of Philippine elections in danger, given the company’s precarious performance in other countries.

“The legitimacy of Miru’s proposed technology is a critical cause for concern, as everything indicates that their Automated Counting Machines (ACMs) have never been used in any election before. Since the post-qualification evaluations began, Democracy Watch has repeatedly asked whether the exact same ACM has ever been deployed in an election, as required by law,” Democracy Watch Philippines Convenor Lloyd Zaragoza explained, saying the Comelec did not answer DWP’s queries satisfactorily.

He said that to recall, Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo recently admitted that the ACM presented during the post-qualification evaluation is a prototype that has never been used in an official election before.

“This machine is ours; it really belongs to the Comelec. We made the (terms of reference) and our wish list. Miru just followed. So, if you noticed, this is a customized machine which has not yet been produced,” Casquejo had said.

Zaragoza said: “This admission raises significant compliance questions with the provisions of the Automated Elections Law of 2007, which explicitly requires that ‘the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.'”

DWP remains unsettled by the unresolved questions surrounding Miru’s performance in other countries where the firm had been tapped as automated election service provider, he said.

“Alarming reports from the company’s involvement in the 2023 elections in Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have painted a picture of voting delays, chaos, and a severe erosion of public trust. Observers had anticipated a statement from Miru, clarifying and justifying the supposed ‘success’ of their technology, but convincing explanations have yet to materialize,” Zaragoza added.

In the DRC, for instance, a staggering 45.1 percent of polling stations faced difficulties with electronic voting machines, as indicated in a preliminary report by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), based on data from 60,000 volunteers, Zaragoza noted.

“The Carter Center’s international election observers corroborated these findings in the DRC, witnessing technical issues in 22 percent of the polling stations they visited. These mishaps extended voting periods and incited voter confusion, casting doubts over Miru’s technological reliability,” Zaragoza added.

Also, DWP said it is perplexed about Miru’s misrepresentation of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq’s (UNAMI) stance on the elections in the Middle Eastern country.

“While Miru conveyed that UNAMI had endorsed the elections as fair and successful, UNAMI had previously made it clear through a press release that it would not take part in observing or monitoring the elections, thus not being equipped to evaluate the election process,” Zaragoza pointed out.

With issues here and abroad still unaddressed, Democracy Watch is pressing the Comelec to maintain transparency in order to address incessant uncertainties on Miru’s capability to ensure fair national and local elections in 2025.

“The hurried move to finalize the contract without sufficiently addressing these key concerns has led to a troubling veil of skepticism looming over the entire selection operation. It is a matter of principle that decisions of this magnitude are steered by solid facts and transparency, rather than lingering doubts and shrouded in mystery,” Zaragoza said.

Democracy Watch is holding on to Comelec Chairman George Garcia’s earlier commitment that the bidding for the vote-counting contract will be open and transparent.

“Officials, experts and citizens alike are still on standby for an exhaustive explanation from Miru, alongside the Comelec’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) and Technical Working Group (TWG), to address the growing concerns brought to light by independent observers. The continued silence serves only to fuel rumors, suggesting that these unresolved issues are indeed valid,” according to Zaragoza.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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