52 million ballots ready for polls – Comelec

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The printing of more than 52 million official ballots to be used in the May 13 elections was completed in “record time” yesterday or in less than two months, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes.

Brillantes performed a symbolic switch-on of the printing machine that churned out 712 ballots comprising the last batch of 52,333,801 printed by the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City. The last batch was for Barangay 186 of Pasay City.

“It seems like only yesterday when we were here to start the printing. Now, we are here again to see the last of the
ballots being printed. This is really surprising for us that in just 57 days or less than two months, we finished printing all the ballots. Kudos will principally go to the NPO,” Brillantes said in a speech.

NPO completed the printing 21 days before the April 25 deadline set by the Comelec. NPO director Emmanuel Andaya called it a “record breaking accomplishment.”

With Brillantes at the NPO yesterday were Comelec commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chair Henrietta de Villa, and Presidential Communications Operations office head Herminio Coloma.

“We hope we satisfied you with our performance.  To our partners, congratulations for a job well done,” Andaya said, referring to Holy Family Printing Corp. and Canon Marketing Philippines.

NPO deputy director Raul Nagrampa revealed spoilage of some 55,000 ballots, or about one-tenth of one percent of all the ballots. He said mishandling of the printed ballots may have caused the spoilage.

Based on procedures, a ballot rejected by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine is tested four more times. If it still fails the test, it is cut into pieces and disposed of.

“In the 2010 elections, we finished printing 10 days before election day. Printing now is faster because of the machines used,” Nagrampa said.

Ballots intended for Metro Manila polling precincts shall remain at NPO headquarters until instructions are issued for their distribution.

Those for polling precincts in the provinces would be stored at the Comelec’s warehouse in Marikina prior to their distribution to polling centers.

“We cannot ascertain when because the deployment has security features. No schedule of deployment yet,” Brillantes said when asked about the schedule of distribution.

Brillantes admitted that the Comelec had “reservations” when the NPO outsourced the contract for the printing machines.

“At first, we were thinking ‘why give it to the NPO which will in turn bid it out?’ But ultimately I think they actually showed that they can do it. This is a government agency that will now start the entire election process. Without the ballots, we won’t have an election. It’s the NPO and the Holy Family,” he said.

“This is the evidence that we are ready for the elections. The entire country owes you. This is the first and the most important phase of our electronic elections,” he added.


Source code woes over?

Brillantes also said they hope to see the dispute between Smartmatic International Corp. and Dominion Voting System over the source code resolved soon.

He said the Comelec is preparing a draft agreement that he hopes the two groups will embrace.

“We are already winding up with the specific provisions in the agreement. Right now, we are just discussing some little details,” he said.

He said a final draft would be sent to the two companies’ officials in the US.

The Comelec is mediating between Smartmatic and Dominion to ensure the release of the certified source code before the May 13 midterm polls. He said there is a “97 percent” possibility that the two firms will reach an agreement.

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