Drilon asks Comelec chief to postpone ballot printing

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon appealed to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Juan Andres Bautista to defer the printing of ballots for the May polls until the Supreme Court (SC) releases its decision on all the disqualification cases pending before it.
Drilon said he believes that there is still ample time to print the ballots for the 2016 polls after the SC ruled on all the disqualification cases even if Bautista already set February 1 as the poll body's deadline for printing. He suggested that the Comelec may hire more printers to meet its deadline.
The Senate president said the Comelec’s move to print the ballot while the high tribunal is still weighing on the issue is “very disrespectful” to the SC.
"Pushing through with printing the ballots even before the SC can decide on the disqualification cases is equivalent to an utter disrespect to the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction on the matter," Drilon said.
"I urge Comelec Chair Bautista to accord due respect to the Supreme Court. The case is currently being heard by our esteemed justices. Why would Comelec Bautista want to pre-empt them? Why bypass our justices?" he added.
Drilon said the SC is “well aware of the time constraint and it knows its Constitutional mandate.” He said that he believes the SC will decide on the disqualification cases earlier than late former presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.’s case which was decided April, just a month before the election.
He also aired his concern on the possibility that printing the ballots this early without the SC’s final ruling on the disqualification cases may result to confusion if a name of a disqualified candidate was included on the list.
“The possibility that the ballots may contain names of those disqualified will cause a lot of confusion. So I urge strongly - ako ay nakikiusap kay Chairman Bautista - na ipagpaliban ang pag-imprenta ng balota,” Drilon said.
“Kung may mga pangalan doon na sabi ng Korte Supreme ay disqualified, it may no longer reflect the true sentiment of the voters. I am not passing judgment on the qualification nor disqualification of Sen. Poe, I am just saying that the more prudent thing to do is to wait for the final decision of the Supreme Court,” he explained.
Drilon said rushing the printing of ballots may cause further delay and problems amid rumors that Bautista has bias and the credibility of the 2016 polls will be questioned.
"I think Chairman Bautista knows better than to railroad the printing of the ballots. Besides, Chairman Bautista's insistence to rush the printing of the ballot will only trigger speculations on his impartiality, which may affect him and the agency at this crucial time," Drilon said.
"What will the Comelec do if the Supreme Court upheld the Comelec en banc's decision to disqualify Senator Grace Poe? Will the Comelec re-print the ballots? That will prove to be very costly and impractical," he said.
Drilon, however, admitted he is not aware of Bautista's dealing with automation process of the elections.

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