EDITORIAL - On track with HOPE

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - On track with HOPE

The Commission on Elections, the Supreme Court ruled this week, committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying Smartmatic from bidding for the supply of the automated counting machines for the 2025 midterm elections. The SC, however, said the ruling did not invalidate the Comelec’s award of the P17.9-billion contract to a joint venture led by South Korean firm Miru Systems Co. Ltd.

Miru bagged the deal as the lone bidder for the FASTrac or full automation system with transparency audit count after the Comelec disqualified Smartmatic, the poll tech supplier since voting was automated starting with the elections in Muslim Mindanao in 2008. Smartmatic was disqualified amid allegations of bribery in 2016 between the company and then Comelec chairman Andres Bautista. Smartmatic has denied the allegations and may challenge its disqualification in the wake of the SC ruling.

Set up in 1999, Miru has provided election systems in South Korea, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the deal with the Comelec, Miru will supply 110,000 new automated counting machines, 104,345 ballot boxes, ballot paper for 73.8 million voters along with ballot printing and verification services, and 2,200 consolidation and canvassing system laptops and printers.

Those items are not produced overnight, and the machines must undergo several tests before being used for the 2025 midterm elections. Personnel must be trained to use the new machines as well as the ballot printing and verification services. With only a year to go before election day, the Comelec will have to strictly follow a tight schedule to prevent glitches and ensure a clean and orderly vote.

Apart from a possible legal challenge, an impeachment threat against Comelec Chairman George Garcia has been raised at the House of Representatives over the disqualification of Smartmatic. Garcia has said he and the other Comelec officials who approved the disqualification are ready to face impeachment. In the meantime, he said the poll body will proceed with its contract with Miru, since the SC did not invalidate the award of the deal.

The main concern of the public is that the controversy might derail the conduct of the 2025 elections, wherein voters will pick local officials, congressmen, party list and 12 senators. Ensuring HOPE – honest, orderly and peaceful elections – is always a challenge in this country. The latest controversy should not get in the way of HOPE.

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