EXPLAINER: The blemished reputation abroad of Miru, Comelec’s 2025 voting machine supplier

Dwight de Leon

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EXPLAINER: The blemished reputation abroad of Miru, Comelec’s 2025 voting machine supplier

SIGNED. The Commission on Elections and Miru Systems seal their partnership for the 2025 elections as Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia and MIRU Systems president Jinbok Chung sign the contract for the full automation system at the Comelec office on March 11, 2024.


Miru has won the big-budget deal to deploy voting machines to the Philippines for next year's polls, but the South Korean company is still being haunted by reports of faulty devices and manual recounts in countries that previously sought its services

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has officially replaced Smartmatic after a months-long search for a new poll technology provider, but the commission’s choice has its own baggage.

Miru, a company based in South Korea, has an imperfect and shaky record overseas, having faced allegations of faulty technology in countries where it deployed its equipment.

A number of election watchdogs and lawmakers in the Philippines have raised their concerns about Miru’s history abroad, while the company has since insisted that allegations against them are false.

Rappler breaks down the controversies overseas that Miru had to grapple with in the past.

Allegation: Miru allegedly repackaged machines to sell them to the next buyer.

The enduring allegations against Miru came from The Sentry, an organization that “produces hard-hitting investigative reports and dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption and violence,” according to its website.

In its June 2018 report, the group took a deep dive on Miru’s alleged efforts to penetrate the election scene in Argentina, a country that had yet to automate its polls at the national level back then.

Citing past news articles, The Sentry said the country’s modernization minister Andres Ibarra procured a ballot machine prototype from a South Korean firm in 2016 even though Congress had yet to approve a bill seeking to automate the elections there.

A lawyer eventually filed a complaint against Ibarra in federal court, asking that he be investigated for supposed abuse of authority and violation of his duties. The case was eventually dismissed.

The Argentina angle will be relevant once Miru becomes the election tech provider in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Sentry and other researchers alleged that their analysis of publicly available images indicated that the “electronic single” ballot machines pitched for Argentina’s 2016 national elections were similar to the prototype machines being sold to DR Congo, which was scheduled to hold its first electronic polls in December 2018.

“Were the machines originally intended for Argentina modified for use in DR Congo? How can electronic voting technology that failed review in Argentina be safe for use in DR Congo’s arguably more logistically-demanding electoral environment?” The Sentry asked.

Allegation: The machines that Miru sold to DR Congo had major vulnerabilities.

The Sentry shared documents they obtained with Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist of the US-based Center for Democracy and Technology. The latter flagged the following supposed features of Miru’s machines:

  • the QR code technology, which he said may record information that would compromise voters’ right to ballot secrecy
  • supposed dependence on a 2014 Android mobile operating system, which was already outdated at the time
  • supposed reliance on 2G and 3G wireless cellular connections, which “could leave information stored on Miru’s system open to tampering via hacking”

It is important to note that Hall was reacting only to photos and documents, and making observations guided by his expertise. Miru, at the time, downplayed the allegations, and pointed out that Hall did not actually physically examine the machines.

“The security concerns raised are not real as the author of the paper seems to have taken facts only from pictures seen and published,” Miru vice president Ken Cho told The Washington Post.

Allegation: DR Congo’s election results were marred with fraud.

The winner of the 2018 presidential election in DR Congo was Félix Tshisekedi of the opposition. The candidate publicly backed by outgoing president Joseph Kabila placed only third in that race.

Runner-up Martin Fayulu, however, embraced widely circulated rumors at the time that Tshisekedi’s victory was due to a last-minute deal he made with Kabila after the latter supposedly realized that he backed the wrong horse.

For a time, numerous countries either questioned or raised doubts about the results, including France, Belgium, and Britain. Some heads of state in the African Union also asked the DR Congolese government to delay the announcement of final results in January 2019. The AU, European Union, and the US, however, all later decided to back Tshisekedi’s presidency.

DR Congo retained Miru’s services for the December 2023 presidential election, a vote that saw Tshisekedi win by a landslide. His rival Moïse Katumbi refused to accept the results and said there had been “massive fraud” surrounding the polls.

An joint observation mission by the Catholic and Protestant churches there said 60% of incident reports they received were about interrupted voting. An unscheduled extension of the election took place as a result of the delays, but the legality of the process was questioned by critics.

Media reports put the percentage of malfunctioning machines at 45%. When asked by Philippine senators about that high figure, Miru claimed the problem was “due to delay in logistics, which is out of the scope of our company.”

In January 2024, Miru showed Rappler a project completion satisfactory certificate given to the firm by the independent election commission in DR Congo, attesting to Miru’s fulfillment of its obligations “in a diligent, efficient, and economical manner.” The Comelec later said it had also seen the certification from DR Congo’s poll body.

Document courtesy of Miru Systems
Allegation: Miru’s machines yielded inconclusive results in Iraq.

Type keywords “Miru” and “Iraq” on Google Search and among the top results is the Reuters article from August 2018 saying that Iraq’s election commission “ignored an anti-corruption body’s warnings about the credibility of electronic vote-counting machines used in May’s parliamentary election” that year. The equipment in question came from Miru.

That election saw a “shock victory” – as Al Jazeera reported – to a political bloc led by a “longtime adversary of the United States,” in Reuters’ words.

The anti-corruption body reportedly raised nearly a dozen red flags in the partnership, from contractual procedures undertaken by the commission, to its supposed failure to examine the machines for potential flaws.

The outgoing parliament ordered a manual recount, and replaced the election commission with judges. The new commission, however, later determined that the manual recount had similar results with the electronic count.

Iraq has held two more parliamentary elections since, one in 2021, and another in 2023. Miru remained the voting machine supplier of the government in those elections.

A delegation from the European Union who observed the 2021 election also concluded that the “elections were technically well-managed, competitive,” although there were concerns about lack of transparency.

For Miru, the fact that these two countries – both struggling democracies – continued to seek their services is proof that they are able to deliver.

“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.

Lingering questions

Aside from the punches Miru had to deal with overseas, there are other concerns that make lawmakers and local watchdogs uneasy about the Comelec’s new collaborator in 2025. These include the fact that Miru had no competition in the P17.9-billion project since no one else submitted a bidding proposal.

“Not only did the joint venture between Miru and three other companies undergo legal, financial, and rigorous technical evaluation, but the Comelec also publicly showed end-to-end demonstrations in the presence of the media, stakeholders, and other observers, which the first time in history of the Comelec’s procurement, before deciding. We have proven that they are technically capable,” election spokesman Rex Laudiangco said in Filipino in February.

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.