Comelec says pausing ballot printing may lead to more problems later on
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has insisted that it needs to push through with the printing of ballots for the upcoming polls despite a temporary restraining order (TRO) over the disqualification of alleged nuisance candidates, as more problems may emerge if they move outside their schedule.
Comelec spokesperson Director James Jimenez said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday that any delays in printing 65 million ballots may start a chain reaction which may compromise processes required for elections — things that they want to avoid.
However, he maintained that Comelec is facing the Supreme Court (SC) TROs by answering requests from the High Tribunal to respond to issues.
“How the TROs will affect? Well we’re facing the TROs, every time that a TRO is sent to us and we are asked to comment, we participate, we are part of the process of resolving these issues, hindi naman napapabayaan po ‘yong mga kaso ng mga taong ‘yon,” Jimenez said.
“It’s just that we need to get started printing and that’s what we did. Medyo marami po tayong ipi-print ngayon, we’re going to print more than 65 million ballots. And if we wait any longer, we might run into problems later on, basically, we might have to crash timelines, we might have to hurry things up,” he added.
Jimenez said that Comelec is wary that delays may lead to hastened preparations, which may then force the polling body to resort to shortcuts just to meet deadlines.
“And when you hurry things up, you know, a lot of things get left by the wayside, naiiwan ‘yong tamang proseso or nagsho-shortcut ka para maabot mo ‘yong deadline mo,” he added.
“We hope that the Supreme Court understands the urgency of this matter for us, and that they are fully aware of the timetables that we are operating under,” he added.
The Comelec official’s reaction came after he was asked about election lawyer Romulo Macalintal’s recent remarks, where he said that Comelec should have informed SC first before even making any moves.
“Comelec should have first advised the SC that it could no longer obey its restraining order before it started printing the ballots and should have asked for authority from the SC to proceed with the printing of the ballots despite the existence of said TROs on certain candidates,” Macalintal said in a statement.
But Jimenez said that Comelec had to make a choice, as ballots were already prepared for printing — either start printing or wait and be delayed.
“See, the thing is, by last Sunday, everything for the preparations for the printing of the ballots had already been completed. And at that point, ballots were already serialized — there were serial numbers attached to every ballot, the ballot faces were fixed and ready to go,” he explained.
“At that point, it was either we went ahead or we didn’t. We are keeping to a schedule, because we are very concerned that if we don’t start now, then we might run into problems later on; considering that everything is ready to go, the Commission then decided, upon consultation, to just go ahead with the printing,” he added.
Last January 20, it was reported that the SC order has pushed back the Comelec’s schedule of printing ballots from the initial January 15 date, as the High Tribunal stopped the disqualification of two aspirants deemed as nuisance candidates.
But on the same day, Comelec also started the printing of the ballots, without the three candidates approved by the Supreme Court.
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