Comelec probe chief lists possible reasons for poll delays

By Gretchen Malalad, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2010 01:41 AM | Updated as of Oct 27 2010 09:41 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The head of a Commission on Elections (Comelec) special committee has enumerated several reasons for the the delays in the recent barangay elections. 

According to Commissioner Armando Velasco, the head of the 7-member fact-finding committee, one reason for the delay was the short period for the preparations for the barangay election itself. 

Velasco said in the previous months, they had to attend several hearings in Congress on the proposal to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Because of this, the poll body decided not to print the ballots early because they were unsure whether or not the elections would push through. 

Velasco explained that ballot printing usually takes 45 days as required by the National Printing Office (NPO). 

It was only when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III pushed for the holding of the elections that Comelec started preparing for the polls. 

Preparations began in the first week of September, leaving the Comelec with only one month to get everything ready instead of the usual 6 months. Only 15 days were allotted for the NPO to print the ballots.

But Velasco is also pointing to another reason for the delay in the delivery of election materials.

He is blaming employees who may have sabotaged the deliveries.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento also believes in the same thing.

He said, the Comelec's packing and shipping committee may have something to do with the delay after the poll body decided to use the services of private forwarding companies instead of the committee. 

"Because if you resort to personnel deliveries of these election paraphernalias kahit papaano ay  kikita ang personal ng packing and shipping committee but if you entrust it to forwarding then walang kikitain iyong magdadala," said Sarmiento.

Bidding for the ballot boxes was also late. Sarmiento said, they were unable to immediately fill in the posts in the new Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) formed after the old BAC was suspended because of the ballot secrecy folder issue. Sarmiento said nobody wanted to be appointed to the BAC. 

Lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, who still heads the new BAC, said that despite the late order for the ballot boxes and services of forwarders, they were still able to hold the biddings and even managed to save money. For example, the budget for forwarders was P230 million but the BAC got the contract for only P67 million, he said.

Still, the fact finding committee will still probe the BAC, as well as the packing and shipping committee, the NPO, and the four forwarding agencies.

The members of the probe body include Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, Assistant Regional Election Director Atty. Romeo Fortes, Comelec clerk of court Atty. Josephine dela Cruz, Zambales provincial election supervisor Atty. Lydia Pangilinan, director of Comelec's electoral contest and adjudications department Betty Pesana, and a representative from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.