MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since lockdown restrictions eased this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) allowed the media and election observation groups to enter the warehouse that houses the vote-counting machines (VCMs) that will be used for the 2022 elections.
The Comelec on Monday, March 14, conducted a walkthrough of the facility and a demonstration of its operations after the COVID-19 Interagency Task Force (IATF) placed several areas including the province of Laguna under the lowest pandemic alert level.
Monday’s event also came amid calls by various election watchdogs and groups for the Comelec to give them access to the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse, as well as the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City, where the ballots are being printed.
The Comelec had earlier said that pandemic restrictions were the reason why observation in those facilities was postponed, although various groups, which were unsatisfied with such an explanation, insisted that the Comelec could have still conducted a livestream of the operations to ensure transparency.
During the briefing, Comelec said it will deploy the VCMs and laptops over the period of April 2 to April 19, while the official ballots will be transported from April 20 to May 5.
Election supplies forwarder F2 Logistics will transport the VCMs from the Sta. Rosa warehouse to different local hubs across the country for temporary storage pending their distribution to the various polling centers before election day.
“It’s part of the deliverables of F2 Logistics to provide a warehouse, but the control is still with the Comelec,” Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said, referring to the said local hubs.
The ballots, meanwhile, will be delivered directly from the NPO to the consignees, which are the city and municipal treasurers.
Comelec’s contract with F2 Logistics has drawn scrutiny over its ties to President Rodrigo Duterte’s major 2016 campaign donor Dennis Uy.
But poll officials have defended the agreement, saying no grounds were found to say there was conflict of interest involved. – Rappler.com