Delays dog printing of ballots for May polls

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2013 03:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2013 11:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The printing of ballots for the 2013 midterm elections is already delayed, National Printing Office chief Emmanuel Andaya confirmed.

On the sidelines of the blessing of the printing machines, Andaya revealed that under their original memorandum of agreement with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the ballots should have already been printed last January 21. "Two weeks na ang delay," he said.

The Comelec and NPO will instead start printing on Monday, February 4. Holy Family and Cannon are the NPO's contractors for the printing.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. dismissed Andaya’s fears, however. “Maaga pa ang February 4. Maganda yung makina eh, kayang kaya habulin lahat. We have more than enough time, the capacity of the machine, much more than in 2010," he said.

Andaya said the technicians who will man the machines have been trained for a month by German and Singaporean technicians. Backup engineers are also on standby in case there will be problems.

He said the NPO has three printing machines and three cutters that will work the whole day on two 12-hour shifts. The machines will be allowed two breaks of two hours each a day. A total of 42 personnel will man the machines.

The Comelec placed a job order of 52,017,360 ballots to cover the 52,014,648 registered voters for the midterm elections.

The machines have the capacity to print as much as one million a day, but Andaya said the output will depend on Comelec.

Each printed ballot will be tested three times in a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine. Ballots that fail the test will be discarded and destroyed.

The printing facility has the following areas: a storage area for the ballot papers before printing, the three printers, three cutters, a testing area that will have 156 PCOS machines and Comelec personnel, a ballot packaging area and a temporary storage area prior to shipping.

Andaya said the NPO's basement area has been transformed into a "world class area and we are confident that we can finish the job in lesser time and lesser budget."

Access to the printing area will be restricted when printing begins. All areas will be monitored by closed circuit television cameras.

During his speech, Andaya thanked Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma for his support despite criticisms and questions over NPO's capability to print as well as the integrity of its industrial partner, the joint venture of Holy Family and Cannon.

PCOO is the supervising cabinet agency over the NPO.

Comelec's accredited citizens' arm, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, gave the printing facility its seal of approval.

"We hope na yung sinasabi namin sa PPCRV: a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections will happen for 2013," said PPCRV Chairman Henrietta de Villa.