Poll machine bribery scheme? Comelec’s Garcia hits Marcoleta over ‘demolition job’

Dwight de Leon

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Poll machine bribery scheme? Comelec’s Garcia hits Marcoleta over ‘demolition job’

WORD WAR. SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta and Commission on Elections Chairman George Garcia.

Graphics by Marian Hukom/Rappler

Comelec Chairman George Garcia asserts he has no offshore bank accounts, after Representative Rodante Marcoleta alleges an elaborate bribery scheme involving an unnamed poll official

MANILA, Philippines – SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta mounted a press conference on Tuesday, July 9, to insinuate that a Commission on Elections official received bribe money to favor South Korean poll tech firm Miru Systems in the bidding process for the Comelec’s procurement of new election machines.

Marcoleta did not name the poll official, but Comelec Chairman George Garcia, who believes that the lawmaker was alluding to him, decried the allegations as baseless.

The fresh claims come as the Comelec goes in the thick of preparations for the 2025 midterm elections, one that will see the introduction of new automated counting machines (ACMs) supplied by the successor of Smartmatic, the country’s poll tech provider from 2010 to 2022.

What did Marcoleta say?

Marcoleta claimed that a total of 49 offshore bank accounts worth $15.2 million in Singapore, China and Hong Kong, the Caribbean, and North America are traceable to a Comelec official.

“At least $2.1 million or more than P120 million are deposits made from Korean bank accounts between June 2023 and March 2024,” he said.

Marcoleta alleged that the transfers during the said time period coincided with numerous “milestones” in the procurement of the machines, such as the disqualification of Smartmatic from participating in the bidding process in November 2023, to the awarding of the P17.9-billion contract to Miru in February.

“This is a work in progress. We have yet to verify all these. There are 49 offshore accounts. I only mentioned those specifically originating from South Korea for obvious purposes,” Marcoleta said.

How did the Comelec, Miru respond?

Responding to Marcoleta, Garcia asserted he has no foreign bank account, adding he has requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to identify and probe the people behind the “malicious” rumors.

He also said that he is willing to sign a waiver for the alleged bank accounts to prove his innocence.

Kung akin iyon, marapat na tingnan, buksan, at alamin kung talaga bang may tunay na account, ano’ng history ng account na ‘yan (If that account is mine, then we should open that and find out what it contains and what the account’s history is),” Garcia insisted.

Dalawang linggo na kaming may impormasyon, nakaplano ‘yung demolition job laban sa Comelec (We have had this information for the last two weeks that there would be a demolition job against the Comelec),” the poll chief added.

For Miru, the claims that have been passed to the media are “false allegations.”

“We have always acted in good faith and have proven the quality of both the machines themselves and our capacity to deliver all requirements on time through several public demonstrations, and will continue to show transparency as we move forward with our responsibility for the upcoming election,” it said in a statement.

Why is the awarding of the contract to Miru controversial?

The Comelec promised to reform the automated election system for 2025, and in the process declared as unusable the tens of thousands of machines from Smartmatic, which had been in use since the 2016 elections.

The poll body wanted to lease new equipment, but later barred Smartmatic from the bidding process due to its alleged involvement in a 2016 bribery scheme involving former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista. The United States government launched its own investigation because the money supposedly passed through the country’s financial system.

Miru, meanwhile, had no rival for the multibillion-peso contract, since no other firm submitted a bid. After two public biddings and a long post-qualification evaluation, the Korean firm secured the deal.

In April, the Supreme Court said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Smartmatic from joining the bidding process. The High Court, however, did not nullify the contract awarded to Miru, as it was already impractical to do so, with only around a year left before the midterm elections.

Miru has an imperfect record abroad, having faced allegations of faulty technology in countries where it deployed its equipment, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

It is important to take note though that the independent election body in DR Congo and a delegation from the European Union in Iraq spoke about the credibility of the elections in both countries.

“The governments of Iraq and DR Congo have been using our machines for several consecutive elections since 2018, and have continued to show trust in our technology even after the administrators and ruling parties have shifted,” Miru said in a statement in January.

Read other stories from Rappler’s ongoing coverage of the search for election technology providers in the 2025 midterms.


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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.