MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, March 14, asked election observation groups for more patience, following criticism that it had not allowed them to monitor the printing of ballots at the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City.
The poll body had said during a Senate hearing on March 10 that pandemic restrictions were the reason why observers were not given permission to enter the facility, where nearly two-thirds of the more than 65 million ballots for the 2022 polls have already been printed as of that date.
Election watchdogs have insisted that a livestream of the process could have at least been conducted to ensure transparency.
On Monday, newly-appointed Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said the poll body will get to the bottom of the controversy.
“Tomorrow, when we go to the NPO, allow us to talk to the whole printing committee to ask them what really transpired, if news about a certain percentage [of ballots printed] was true. It’s difficult to jump to conclusion,” Garcia said in Filipino during the Comelec’s walkthrough of its operations in the warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
“We will have to recalibrate everything. We ask for patience over the restrictions introduced before, but this time, under the leadership of Chairman [Saidamen Pangarungan], we will open to you the entire processes, because that will ensure transparency and proper accountability,” he added.
Pangarungan noted that the poll body is preparing the guidelines for election observers who will be given permission to enter the printing facility.
“In January, we were under Alert Level 3,” Pangarungan explained. “Now that we’re no longer under Alert Level 3, we have to open [the facility] to parties and the media.”
“Only those accredited by the [printing] committee will be allowed,” he added.
The Comelec has invited election observers and members of the media for a walkthrough of the processes in the NPO on Tuesday.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec shall allow entities designated by the poll body to observe the proceedings of the printing committee in connection with the printing of the official ballots. – Rappler.com