PPCRV fears poll delays in May

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
'I'm hoping that they get their act together,' says PPCRV's Ana de Villa-Singson, referring to various firms in charge of poll preparations

POLL DELAYS. Will delays in election preparations compromise D-Day on May 13? Photo by John Javellana

MANILA, Philippines – Is it a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth?

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Thursday, February 14, said it fears delays in election preparations because “there are more stakeholders involved than there were in 2010.”

In an interview on Rappler’s #TalkThursday, PPCRV communications director Ana de Villa-Singson said the difference in 2010 was that the Comelec had one major project manager in charge of election services – Smartmatic.

For the 2013 elections, the Comelec decided to unbundle the services and bid them out to various companies. Smartmatic is now in charge of compact flash cards as well as transmission, while other companies take charge of other services. The National Printing Office (NPO) through controversial firm Holy Family, for instance, now handles ballot-printing.

“So right now instead of having one cook orchestrate the entire thing, you have several cooks doing many, many different things,” Singson told Rappler executive editor and CEO Maria Ressa on #TalkThursday. (Watch the whole interview below.)

Singson also noted that some major lots, or unbundled services, “were awarded rather late.” In January, the National Printing Office (NPO), which is in charge of printing the ballots, admitted that ballot-printing was also delayed by at least 9 days.

‘No-election’ scenarios?

Noting tight schedules less than 90 days before May 13, Singson added: “I’m hoping that they get their act together,” said Singson, daughter of PPCRV chair Ambassador Henrietta “Tita” de Villa.

Singson, however, brushed aside “no-election” scenarios.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. We have the fallback from the learnings in 2010, the automated elections in 2010. It’s just that, as I said, you have to orchestrate with more groups now. They all have to align,” she explained.

CLOSE WATCH. PPCRV chair Henrietta 'Tita' de Villa (left) chats with Comelec commissioner Christian Lim (right), among others, during the mock elections last February 2. Photo by John Javellana

The PPCRV looks “so much calmer than other citizens’ arms,” she added, “because we were there in the front seat of what happened in 2010.” “We’ve seen and we can testify to the capabilities of what they did before,” she said.

The unbundling of election services has its advantages, on the other hand, said Singson.

“I think the strength is that it hopefully allays fears that there’s something a bit fishy because everything is consolidated with one group. No manipulation,” she said.

‘Delays’ in ballot-printing

NPO assistant director Raul Nagrampa, for his part, denied media reports that ballot-printing suffered more setbacks on top of the initial 9-day delay. (What does ballot-printing look like? Watch the demo below.)

He said the NPO, after all, only expected to print 600,000 ballots a day for the first few days. “Break-in pa lang kami; bago ang makina… Parang kotse ‘yan eh,” Nagrampa explained in an phone interview with Rappler on Thursday. (We’re still in the break-in stage; our machines are new… It’s like a new car.) 

The NPO, through private firm Holy Family, said it will soon print one million ballots a day. It will have to print around 52-M ballots on a one-voter, one-ballot basis, by April 25. (Read: How gov’t secures ‘heart’ of polls.)

Nagrampa said the NPO has printed up to 7 million ballots as of Thursday morning. He said the Comelec has already received 3.2 million of these.

This means the NPO has 70 days left to print 45 million more ballots, to beat its April 25 deadline. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com