Comelec: Vote-receipt printing may add 10 hours to polls

David Dizon, ABS-CBN News

SC order disrupts poll timetable, says Comelec commissioners

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said it will need to examine its legal options after the Supreme Court ordered it to enable the printing of vote receipts in the May 9 polls.

In a press briefing, Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista said the SC decision "materially impacts" and "disrupts" the poll body's preparations for the upcoming polls, including its timelines.

Voting 14-0, the high court granted the petition for mandamus ordering Comelec to print the vote receipts but regulate its release and disposal.

"We would appreciate it if we can orally argue the case before the Supreme Court," Bautista said.

He said that if the decision is implemented, the poll body will need to reconfigure SD cards of all 92,500 machines as well as bid out procurement for receipt receptacles for all vote-counting machines. He said the poll body has already stopped the configuration of SD cards at the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse since these are not configured to allow the printing of ballot receipts.

He said Comelec will also need to retrain all 277,000 members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) nationwide.

"We were halfway done but we need to call them back and retrain them. We will also need to amend the general instructions for the BEIs [Board of Election Inspectors] which does not contain the production, use and final disposition of the voting receipts," he told reporters.

Deployment plans will also need to be delayed and the technical provider and election watchdogs apprised of the situation, the chairman said.

Commissioner Arthur Lim described the SC decision as ill-advised, saying the high court ruled on a highly technical matter.

"This is a day of sadness not for the Comelec or Supreme Court but for Philippine democracy and the rule of law," he said.

"This is an ill-advised decision of the court dahil napakatindi ng epekto ngayon. It has completely upset and turned our timelines upside down," he added.

Asked if the decision could lead to a delay in the May 9 polls, he said: "Yes. This will result in a derailment of our timelines. Timelines will affect the date of the elections..."

He, however, added that he will leave it to his colleagues if the poll body can still keep the election date.

PRINTING COULD ADD 10 HOURS TO VOTE PROCESS

Bautista said the Comelec en banc will need to examine its next move as well as its earlier decision to allow onscreen verification of votes.

He said allowing the printing of ballot receipts will add at least 600 minutes or about 10 hours to the voting process per precinct.

"The printing of the receipt takes 13 seconds. Reading it can take 20-40 seconds. There are also issues such as paper jams and rebooting the machine. You also need to change the paper," he said.

The Comelec chief said the prudent course of action on the part of the Supreme Court should have been to consult the poll body, "which knows the practical, operational and technical aspects of the elections."

'Kami naman we are always open to presenting to them what the arguments are...After all is said and done, we will obey their directive but we are also not supermen and women. We can only do so much in respect of making sure that our democracy is strengthened and protected," he said.

In his petition, ex-senator Richard Gordon lamented that Comelec has not implemented the printing of voter receipts since 2010 during the first nationwide automated election. He described the poll body as a "recidivist" for violating RA No. 9369.

Gordon said the vote receipt or the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in particular, must be implemented so that voters are assured that not only are their votes cast but that these are properly counted. He said this is a "critical" and "indispensable" security feature of the automated counting machines.

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