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Comelec opens ballot printing process to stakeholders amid transparency concerns

Amid transparency concerns, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) opened the doors of the National Printing Office (NPO) to show the ballot printing process to various election stakeholders.

According to Tina Panganiban-Perez’s Tuesday 24 Oras report, election stakeholders had been complaining that they were not allowed to observe the printing process of the ballots for Eleksyon 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions, which some said was a violation of the law.

Due to these concerns, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the Comelec should allow “random inspection” of the printed ballots.

In response, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said the poll body would allow the political parties to inspect the NPO and they could choose the ballot sample that they wanted to test.

“Pagbibigyan po ‘yan ng Commission on Elections... Kung pupwede ‘yung lahat ng political parties ang siyang pupunta dito sa NPO at sila mismo ang pipili ng mga balota na naka-impake na para makuha at ‘yung mga balotang ‘yon ang ite-test natin,” he said.

(The Commission on Elections will allow that. All the political parties cango to the NPO and they can choose a ballot that we can test.)

For the period that the stakeholders were prohibited to oversee the printing process, the Comelec said they could provide copies of the CCTV footage.

In his opening speech, Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan said the walkthrough that the Comelec held on Tuesday was part of their campaign for full transparency in the conduct of the 2022 polls.

“This is part of our program for complete transparency, subject only to the limitation that we will not allow compromising the security of the ballots and the configurations of the SD cards,” Pangarungan said.

During the Comelec’s walkthrough of the vote counting machines (VCMs) and consolidated canvassing system (CCS) production and deployment process in their Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse Monday, the new Comelec chair assured the public that there would be transparency as the poll body secures the sanctity of the ballots in Eleksyon 2022.

So far, 73.7% of the ballots for the Automated Election System (AES) have been printed.

Meanwhile, the printing of the manual ballots for local absentee voting, overseas voting, and the barangays in North Cotabato that would like to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been completed.

Further, the Comelec disclosed that there were more than 5 million defective AES ballots. These would be shredded before the election stakeholders.

In January, the Comelec conducted a virtual walkthrough inside the NPO.

The poll body said there were six units of machines that would print a total of 67,442,714 ballots for the upcoming polls, of which, 1,697,202 are for overseas voting while 65,745,512 are for local voting. — DVM, GMA News