‘Burn all ballots without seals’
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Burn the ballots!
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) should destroy the 1.8 million ballots that did not have the National Printing Office (NPO) security markings on them to erase lingering doubts that there is a sinister plan to undermine the May 10 polls, Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday.
The Makati City congressman told reporters that the burning of the ballots for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be done in public.
“It should be destroyed in front of you people … to remove the last piece of doubt. It’s a nice gesture,” said Locsin, cochair of the joint congressional oversight committee for the automated elections.
Officials said that the ballots for the ARMM did not have the NPO marks because they were incompatible with the alignment design.
However, officials of the Comelec and its automation partner Smartmatic-TIM said that the NPO markings were redundant because there were other security features in the ballots that made them tamper-proof.
History of fraud
Other ballots to be used outside of the ARMM, however, will carry the NPO security markings.
Several poll watchdogs have protested the lack of NPO markings on the ballots for ARMM, which has a history of election fraud.
Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo said he was not worried about the ARMM ballots.
“Whether it should be reprinted or not, it does not matter as long as they went through the security measures,” he said.
Comelec Chair Jose Melo said he did not favor the destruction of the ARMM ballots, calling it a “drastic” measure.
Melo said the ballots were already packed and ready for shipment and burning them would set back the election timetable.
Since the printing started on Feb. 7, the NPO has produced 6 million ballots, Melo said. There are 50.7 million voters who registered to participate in the elections.
The Comelec on Thursday disclosed that Smartmatic-TIM would buy another printing machine to add to the four presses at the NPO to ensure that the ballots will be finished by April 25.
Locsin said the committee members who saw the printing process and the preparations of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines in Smartmatic-TIM’s warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, were pleased with the arrangements.
Locsin said he was “astounded” at the security inside the NPO. He said he was confident that it would be nearly impossible to tamper with the ballots.
“It’s very satisfactory, given the amount of security,” he said. “I think it will make more sense to buy the votes than it is to corrupt the electoral process.”
Locsin said his only suggestion was to darken the outline of the oval space beside the candidates’ name to make it more reader-friendly in daylight.
Unlike in the past elections, in which voters write the names of their candidate, voters in the May 10 polls will get a printed ballot with the names of all the candidates and races for national and local positions.
To make their choice, voters will shade the oval space beside the name of their bets. The ballots will then be fed into a machine that will record the markings and generate a count at the end of the voting day.