Comelec now says it can print 50M ballots

Comelec now says it can print 50M ballots
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—It’s all systems go—again.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday expressed confidence it would be able to print all 50 million ballots required for the automated elections on May 10.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal dismissed suggestions from the Comelec’s own committee on ballot printing that the National Printing Office (NPO) would be unable to meet its printing schedules.

Larrazabal said a fifth printing machine was being acquired to see to it that the needed number of ballots was printed and shipped out well before the first nationwide electronic polling.

“We will not print manual ballots,” he said, referring to a proposal to print 15 million of them.

The number corresponds to 30 percent of the anticipated number of voters that could be affected under a contingency plan for a hybrid balloting in case of a glitch in the automated system.

Larrazabal said the Comelec was “doing its best” to print the required 50.7 million ballots in time for delivery to the provinces.

The Comelec is scheduled to send the ballots and other election paraphernalia to the various regions beginning April 19.

To ensure that all ballots would be printed by April 25, Larrazabal said that Smartmatic-TIM Corp., the Comelec’s automated elections supplier, will lease a fifth machine and install it at the NPO to increase production.

The company also deployed US technicians to maintain the machines and ensure that they are operating at their maximum capacity.

‘Impossible’

Esmeralda Amora-Ladra, head of the Comelec committee for ballot printing, had proposed contingency measures after it decided that the NPO’s four machines were not capable of producing 50 million ballots by the deadline.

She noted in a memo that as of March 1, some 7.9 million ballots for the electronic balloting had been printed.

Of the number, 5.3 million were accepted as “good ballots,” while the rest have yet to be checked.

“Granting that 7,878,480 (printed minus quarantined ballots) are all good ballots, we still have to print a total of 42,845,254 for a period of 54 days. This means, we should be able to have a daily production of 793,430,629, more or less, per day from four printers, which is impossible!” the memo said.

Larrazabal noted that the output of the four printers at the NPO had increased in the past few days, reaching the 700,000 mark. On Wednesday, the four printers managed to print 400,000 ballots in 12 hours.

5th printer on April 5

With the arrival of another printer, the Comelec expects the number to increase and hit the target of at least 800,000 ballots per day.

The fifth Kodak printer will arrive in 10 days and will be operational on April 5, he said.

The election company’s four Kodak VersaMark VL 4000 printers are capable of printing 800,000 ballots a day.

As of Thursday, the NPO had printed 13 million ballots, Larrazabal said.

He blamed “roadblocks” by critics for the delays, noting that the legal questions and challenges against the P7.2-billion contract with Smartmatic-TIM had pushed back the timeline for weeks.

Under the original schedule, the printing of the ballots should have started by the first week of January. The actual production only started in February.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.