Comelec delays ballot printing
GRUDGINGLY, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to postpone anew the printing of ballots to be used in the May polls to Feb. 8.
“This is final… meaning, if they still move the printing, then they better be ready to also postpone the elections,” said Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim in a press briefing Tuesday.
The poll body’s original target for the printing of ballots was Jan. 26. The commission en banc moved it to Feb. 1 because they were still cleansing the list of candidates.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista said the decision to move of the ballot printing schedule was discussed at length and took into consideration pending cases involving some candidates.
“That (Feb. 1) was supposed to be the deadline for the final list. But during the meeting today, the en banc voted to move it to Feb. 8,” Lim said.
“We’re trying to accommodate the calls of certain quarters, and again, just to show that we’re not trying to railroad or trying to favor any candidate, we think it would be better if a final decision is reached in respect of the cases against certain candidates,” he said.
The Supreme Court is still deliberating on the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe, a foundling whose qualification as a natural-born citizen has been questioned. Also pending at the Comelec is a disqualification case against another presidential bet, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, whose substitution as standard bearer of the PDP-Laban party has been cited as problematic.
“Regardless of what the decision is, we will abide by the decision,” the poll chief said.
Both Lim and Bautista expressed hope that Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification case would be resolved soon as it would help finalize the list of candidates.
“We hope that the Supreme Court can close the oral arguments today. We’re looking to finalize the list of candidates by Feb. 3,” Lim said.
Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon urged the poll body to defer the printing of ballots until the Supreme Court has ruled on all the disqualification cases pending before it.
“We don’t allow ourselves to be dictated (but) we listen to reason,” Bautista added, responding to a comment that the poll body was favoring or being influenced by certain candidates.
Bautista explained that once a candidate’s name is printed on the ballot, the vote-counting machines will still count the votes even if the bet is disqualified later on, although those will be declared stray votes.
Comelec aims to finish printing around 57 million ballots by April 25, with additional 14 days allotted to reprinting of rejected ballots and maintenance of printing machines.
All the printed ballots will then undergo verification.
“Three-hundred twenty-five vote-counting machines will be needed for the ballot verification,” Lim said.
He added that this will be coordinated with the National Printing Office.
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