Lack of transparency? Comelec opens ballot printing facility following criticisms

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2022 05:29 PM

After being called out for alleged lack of transparency, Comelec—led by chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and commissioners George Garcia and Marlon Casquejo—allows access to National Printing Office where ballot printing is taking place. Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News
After being called out for alleged lack of transparency, Comelec—led by chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and commissioners George Garcia and Marlon Casquejo—allows access to National Printing Office where ballot printing is taking place. Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — After being called out for alleged lack of transparency, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday allowed the media and other stakeholders to observe the ongoing printing of Halalan 2022 ballots in the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City.

“This is part of our program for complete transparency, subject only to the limitation that we will not allow to compromise the security of the ballots,” said newly-appointed chairman Saidamen Pangarungan. 

The activity was held after poll watchdogs and several candidates’ camp criticized the Comelec for rejecting their request to visit the NPO facility amid the printing of official ballots to be used in the May 9 elections. 

Among those who called out Comelec was election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who represents presidential candidate Leni Robredo’s team.

Explaining their earlier restrictions, commissioner Marlon Casquejo blamed the omicron surge in January.

In a bid for transparency, Casquejo offered to release CCTV footage during days when observers were not allowed. 

“Since we have CCTVs naman on that particular dates, anyone could request and we can provide it… They can watch the CCTVs,” Casquejo said. 

Starting Tuesday, the Comelec also set up a viewing room inside the NPO facility to allow observers, subject to accreditation by the Comelec-Education and Information Department, to monitor the ballot printing. 

BALLOT PRINTING UPDATE

As of 7 a.m. of March 15, Comelec said it has already printed 49,737,783 ballots or 73.07 percent intended for over 65 million voters. 

But ballot printing is just the first step of the process. 

Fifty five percent of the printed ballots have undergone the verification process, in which 47.44 percent or over 31 million turned out “good ballots” while 7 percent or 5.2 million are considered “defective” ballots.

According to Casquejo, a ballot is defective if it was miscut or has smudges. Defective ballots would be shredded, he added.

Helen Aguila Flores, vice chair of the Comelec printing committee, said the NPO can print 1.1 million ballots daily. 

Casquejo said ballot printing is expected to be finished by March 28.

“But it will not stop there because it would undergo verification. Iyun ang matagal because we have to feed the ballots individually,” he said.

The Comelec is set to start the deployment of official ballots on April 20. 

Filipino voters are set to cast their votes on May 9.