THE Commission on Elections (COMELEC) yesterday said the National Printing Office is set to print over 67 million official ballots for the May 9 national and local elections for a budget of P1.3-billion.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez and Deputy Executive Director for Administration Helen Aguila-Flores both said that the official start of the printing of the ballots for local voting is expected on Jan. 20. A total of 65,745,512 ballots for local voting will be printed.
Aguila-Flores said they will prioritize the printing of 1,697,202 ballots for overseas and local absentee voting as early as tomorrow.
“Tomorrow, as soon as we are able to manage the dependencies, we are already ready to print the manual ballots for overseas voting as well as the ballots for the local absentee voting. We are printing them ahead of time because as we all know the overseas ballots will have to be deployed abroad and the voting abroad is one month in advance,” she said.
Under the memorandum of agreement between the Comelec and the NPO, the budget for the printing of the ballots is set at P1.3 billion. There are six units of machines that will print a total of 67,442,714 ballots.
The last batch of official ballots is scheduled to be printed from April 12 to 21. These are the ballots that will be used in the National Capital Region.
Aguila-Flores assured that this is a “very modest timeline” and it already includes a buffer period for contingencies, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the apprehension that this pandemic situation will really hamper our timeline, actually we are foreseeing that there is a contingency plan to come up with a reserved pool of workers. We have also adopted strategies such as batching of workers and coming up with a reserved pool of workers just in case particular clusters are affected [by COVID-19]. We are prepared for that eventuality and we are really hoping that we would be able to finish the printing on time,” she said.
The Comelec also assured that security personnel are also guarding the NPO while the printing of the ballots is underway. Personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the organic security of the Comelec are deployed at the NPO compound.
The poll body also said the ballots will contain security features such as QR codes, security and timing marks, and invisible ultraviolet authentication marks, all of which will ensure that only legitimate ballots will be used on May 9, 2022.
The official ballots will also be stamped with serial numbers, after which, it would undergo a verification process where each ballot will be visually verified and will be tested in the vote counting machines.
After the verification process, it would undergo quality assurance where the physical appearance of the ballot will be evaluated. This visual check will ensure that the margin allowance is correct and the security marks are properly printed on the paper.
Ballots that did not pass the quality assurance process will be “quarantined” and will be evaluated as some could still be retrieved.
Once the ballots are properly evaluated, it will be turned over to the shipping and packing committee, which the Comelec said, is a very “critical” step as each ballot is “precinct-specific.”