Home>News>Election watchdog warns Comelec tapping Miru could lead to 2025 midterm polls’ failure

Election watchdog warns Comelec tapping Miru could lead to 2025 midterm polls’ failure

Democracy Watch

A warning was issued by election watchdog ‘Democracy Watch‘ to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the possibility of an election failure in the 2025 midterm polls if the government awards the new electronic voting system contract to South Korean firm Miru Systems Co. Ltd. The second round of public bidding for next year’s automated election system provider is slated this month.

The group said that based on the latest available data showing Miru’s performance in six nations where it facilitated automated elections, polls failed in at least three countries mainly due to issues on voting machines. These recent controversial elections overseen by Miru were also marred by allegations of fraud and eroded voter confidence amid recount of ballots or repeated voting.

In contrast, the Philippines’ presidential elections last year encountered only very minimal glitches, which had nonetheless been immediately addressed and led to the quick declaration of election results. Independent third-party observers also found no evidence of any fraud in the 2022 national polls, it added.

The Philippines has been enjoying credible and a more efficient conduct of its national and local elections, held every three years, since it switched to fully automated voting and counting during the 2010 presidential polls.

As such, Democracy Watch expressed “deep concern’ over the participation of Miru, a bidder whose recent election projects in Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have ended in catastrophic failures and whose numerous deals worldwide have been questioned.”

Democracy Watch, which is an official observer to the Comelec’s ongoing procurement process for next year’s elections, issued the statement after the poll body declared a failure during the first round of bidding for the P18.83-billion contract, where a consortium led by Miru was the lone bidder.

The group added that particularly, Miru’s bid documents had been “incomplete” and lacked English translation, the Comelec’s own special bids and awards committee had pointed out.

“At stake here is the biggest election automation contract in Philippine history. As steadfast partners of the Comelec in electoral reform, we are alarmed by reports of Miru’s technology malfunctioning in a staggering 70 percent of voting stations on day one of the recent Iraqi elections, forcing authorities to revert to manual count and causing widespread chaos and wholesale erosion of public trust,” Democracy Watch lamented.

“In Congo, as much as 45.1 percent of the Miru-supplied machines experienced breakdowns and technical errors, delaying voting and throwing voters into confusion,” Democracy Watch noted.

According to recent reports, between 30 percent and 75 percent of Miru’s vote counting machines (VCMs) were marred with glitches during the elections held last year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Iraq. In last year’s Philippine elections, merely 1.8 percent of VCMs had some problems.

Miru’s faulty machines forced manual counts and even mandated recounts during the elections in Iraq in 2018 and 2023, defeating the purpose of automation.

The South Korean company’s unreliable electronic voting system led to declaration of failed elections — which had to be repeated in the local and national levels — in Iraq both in 2018 and last year; in Kyrgyzstan in 2021; as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2023.

For Democracy Watch, these past experiences of Miru’s incompetent handling of automated elections could also happen in the Philippines, if left unchecked and not strictly scrutinized by the Comelec.

“We urge the Comelec to give Miru’s track record a thorough once-over as part of its due diligence, as it should with all suppliers. It might want to investigate the company’s alleged links to controversies in Congo and Argentina. Such concerns over hacking vulnerabilities and vote manipulation are so grave as to have prompted watchdog groups and independent experts to flag many fatal weaknesses in Miru’s technology publicly,” Democracy Watch said.

“We trust that the Comelec will raise these issues in the interest of ensuring the integrity of the 2025 elections. We cannot have counting machines failing at such a massive scale, as this would cause political instability in the country,” Democracy Watch added.

“Before it’s too late, we appeal to the Comelec to act with utmost prudence and only consider vendors that demonstrably uphold the values of a secure, transparent, and genuinely credible Philippine election. Our very democracy is at stake. May wisdom and discernment reign in the procurement process,” according to the election watchdog group.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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