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MANILA, Philippines – Less than a month and a half before elections, ballots are ready as the National Printing Office finishes printing ahead of its deadline. Paterno Esmaquel reports.
(Watch video report below)
(The script of the video report follows)
Three weeks before the deadline, the National Printing Office (NPO) finishes printing all 52.3 million ballots for the 2013 elections.
The ballots pass a series of tests.
For the past two months, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) opens the ballot-printing process to observers.
The NPO sets up a viewing room for political parties, as well as journalists. While observers may not enter the printing area, the viewing room lets them monitor printing activities.
The NPO says only one political party is consistently monitoring.
RAUL NAGRAMPA, NPO ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The most consistent is UNA. UNA has a 24/7 watcher diyan; nagrerelyebo sila. Noong una, tinatanong ko, bakit ito palagi ang nandito? Representative pala sila ng UNA; sila lang. The others pabisi-bisita. KBL, nagpunta diyan. 'Yung Nacionalista nagpadala minsan. LP minsan. (The most consistent is UNA. UNA has a watcher 24/7; they work in shifts. At first I was wondering, why are these people always here? It turned out they are representatives of UNA; only they come. The others come for occasional visits. KBL went there. Nacionalista sometimes sends representatives. LP, too, sometimes.)
One of UNA's 3 representatives, Jojo Maximo, holds his ground until the last day of printing. For Maximo, his presence helps UNA guard the process even if from a distance.
JOJO MAXIMO, UNA REPRESENTATIVE: Eh 'yun ang order eh. 'Yun ang gusto ng UNA, para mabantayan din, kasi kahit papa'no, may ano naman kami na nalalaman namin 'yung oras oras na nangyayari diyan. Kahit nandito lang kami, nakikita namin kung anong nangyayari sa loob. (That's the order. That's what UNA wants, so that we can guard it, because at least we know what happens there minute per minute. Even if we're confined here, we can see what's happening inside.)
A former election lawyer, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes knows it's important for parties to guard the ballots.
SIXTO BRILLANTES, COMELEC CHAIRMAN: This was open to the political parties. Kung hindi sila nagpunta, ibig sabihin napakalaki ng tiwala nila. Pero hindi namin sila hindi pinayagan. They were always invited. (This was open to the political parties. If they didn't come, that means they have much trust in us. But it's not true that we didn't allow them to. They were always invited.)
From the NPO, the Comelec brings the ballots to a storage house, then eventually transports these to various provinces.
The public has another month to guard these ballots... until these sheets of paper carry their votes.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila.
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