Comelec explains why observers not allowed before, during ballot printing

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo on Tuesday, March 15, cited Covid-19 as the reason why observers were not allowed before at the National Printing Office (NPO).

Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and Commissioner George Garcia during the walkthrough of the VCM and CCS production and deployment process held at Comelec warehouse, Sta. Rosa, Laguna March 14, 2022.(Ali Vicoy)

“At that time we cannot compromise the Covid-19 situation,” he said during a press briefing at NPO.

Casquejo is heading the Comelec’s printing committee.

On Tuesday, March 15, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal lamented the decision of Casquejo to proceed with the printing of official ballots without candidates’ observers, adding that the candidates and political parties were not informed about it.

Macalintal noted that, under the law, political parties and candidates are entitled to send their watchers or observers during the printing of the ballots and other election paraphernalia.

Meanwhile, Casquejo offered to provide closed-circuit television (CCTV) footages of the printing process of official ballots.

“But then again since we have CCTVs naman on that particular date, if anyone would like to request CCTV footage of that, we can provide it. Para naman of those number of percentage already printed na hindi na-witness (that they did not witness), they can watch the CCTV, at least para makapag-ano tayo na ito pala ang nangyari noong particular date (so that we could that it was what happened on that particular date),” he said when asked by the media about the issue during a press briefing.

As to the poll lawyer’s request for a compromise of conducting random testing of printed ballots, Casquejo said the Comelec en banc needs to discuss it first.

Macalintal said that at least two or three printed ballots should be randomly selected per municipality.

“We will verify if these are really genuine official ballots, if they bear all security markings na kinakailangan, if these will be accepted by PCOS machines. We would suggest that sa Comelec for transparency’s sake,” he said.