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Comelec starts printing of ballots for barangay, SK polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sunday started printing the 85 million ballots that will be used for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls on October 31.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, who witnessed the first day of printing at the National Printing Office (NPO), said the poll body rolled out the printing of its ballots despite proposals from Congress to postpone the elections.

"The long and short of it is we must follow the law, whatever the law may be. Right now, the law says we must have an election on October 31. As long as there is no law that postpones it, we don’t have a choice but to implement the law,” Bautista said.

"And because there is no law yet, and as it is, there are only 70 days before the elections, we are left with no choice but to start printing the ballots already," he added.

Bautista said 57 million of the total 85 million ballots will be for the barangay polls, while the remaining 28 million is allotted for SK.

He mentioned that Comelec aims to finish the printing by October 21.

“We are allotting 60 days for the printing. Hopefully, we will finish by October 21,” Bautista said.

Not in full swing

Printing Committee head Genevieve Guevarra said the NPO is not in full swing on the ballot printing because of a possible congressional approval to postpone the polls.

“The instruction to us is not to go full swing with the printing because there are several bills for the postponement. What we want to avoid is we already have millions printed then it will just be postponed,” Guevarra said.

For his part, Bautista said they are hoping to receive an advisory from Congress whether or not to push with the Barangay and SK elections within 10 days.

“I would hope that by the end of August, they already have a decision on whether it will be postponed or not. Once we get a word that the law postponing it will be passed, we will stop with the preparations already,” the Comelec chief said.

Meanwhile, Guevarra cautioned it would already be too late if the NPO would not go on full swing by next month.

“We will run out of time even if we go 1.9 to 2 million ballots (per day) if we don’t start on September,” she said.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano filed a bill last August 17 seeking the postponement of the Barangay and SK elections to 2018.

Cayetano said in an interview with reporters that the deferment of the polls would give way to the "grassroots" approach of President Rodrigo Duterte in fighting crime.

Allies of Duterte had also filed a similar bill at the House of Representatives. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/ALG, GMA News