Comelec grilled at Senate over ballot printing errors
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was grilled Monday at the Senate over problems in the printing of the ballots for the 2013 midterm elections.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano disclosed in a Senate budget hearing that “bleeding” occurred in some of the ballots printed by the Holy Family Printing Corp, the winning contractor in a bidding conducted by the National Printing Office (NPO).
“Bleeding” occurs when marks on one side of the ballot appear on the other side. Cayetano said this violates the terms of reference of the contract.
Smartmatic-TIM, the provider of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and a losing bidder of the P780-million contract for the ballot printing, had alleged previously that as much as 40 percent of the test ballots were rejected by the machines.
The Comelec later said that in a second testing, 100 percent of the test ballots passed without errors. Comelec requires 55 million ballots to be printed for the 2013 elections.
Cayetano questioned whether Comelec was adequately monitoring the process because none of the commissioners have been personally looking into the printing.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., said that they are continuously monitoring and discussing the process during their en banc session.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez had said, “We will let [NPO] do their thing and if something happens along the way that necessitates the Comelec to intervene, then we will intervene.”
Cayetano further questioned why Comelec decided to let NPO do the bidding when the law requires that Comelec first determine if NPO itself can do the printing, and if it cannot, then Comelec should bid out the contract for the printing.
Brillantes said that they allowed NPO to bid it out because it had more technical knowledge in printing than the Comelec. Cayetano accused the NPO of favoring Holy Family Printing Corp. in awarding the contract.
Brillantes said they can take back the contract if they find that NPO was not able to fully comply with the requirements. Comelec was reviewing and investigating the process fully before they issue a decision, he said.