Comelec to cram 5 months of preparations in 60 days

MANILA, Philippines – The recent Supreme Court (SC) ruling on voting receipts has forced the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cram 5 months of preparations in 60 days.

Logistical problems in issuing voting receipts “might likewise constrain the Commission to recommend the postponement of the May 9, 2016 election to an appropriate date before June 30, 2016,” the Comelec said. 

In a resolution publicized on Friday, March 11, the poll body explained that the SC ruling “sets the Comelec’s preparations back by approximately 3 months.”

This adds to the two more months before the May 9 polls. In March, April, and early May, the Comelec is also set to conduct finishing touches, such as the final testing and sealing of vote-counting machines (VCMs).

Because of this, the poll body said “it now appears that the Comelec will not be ready to conduct orderly and credible elections for overseas voters” as scheduled on April 9.

The poll body said that “in a similar vein, there will be insufficient time to complete preparations for orderly and credible elections” on May 9.

This comes after the the SC ordered the Comelec to issue voting receipts because the law “is clear” about this.  

The SC was acting on the petition filed by senatorial candidate Richard Gordon and his political party, Bagumbayan, to compel the Comelec to issue voting receipts. The Comelec failed to comment on Gordon and Bagumbayan’s petition and thus partly lost by default. (READ: Why Comelec failed to defend itself before SC: ‘We were busy’

The Comelec on Friday appealed the SC’s ruling on voting receipts.  

Overhauling the ‘master blueprint’

While this appeal is pending, the Comelec now has to overhaul the “master blueprint” of VCMs so that it can activate the voting receipts. 

It also needs to reorganize election precincts “in the event a manual election is resorted to, only to ensure elections will occur on May 9, 2016.”

At the same time, the Comelec has to conduct “the procurement of necessary supplies and services.”

The poll body, for instance, has invited contractors to bid for an P85.8-million ($1.85-million)* contract to supply 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper to be used as voting receipts. 

The submission of bids is on April 5, a month before the May 9 elections. 

On top of these, the Comelec said it needs to conduct “a massive voter education campaign” to educate voters about the new procedures in using VCMs with the voting receipts.

For voters, this is the first major change in the use of VCMs after the Philippines held its first two automated elections in 2010 and 2013.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said the poll body needs to redo the following processes due to the SC ruling:

Bautista pointed out that before the SC ruling on voting receipts, the Comelec was “on the right track.” Suddenly, he said, “we were thrown a curve ball.”

Bautista said he now doubts if the Comelec can conduct “credible elections” by May 9. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P46.48

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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