Press Release
November 12, 2012

Cayetano grills Comelec; expressed alarm over faulty ballots
and amended system of transmission

Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano grilled the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the issue of ballot printing for the 2013 automated elections during the agency's budget hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance.

The senator expressed alarm over the apparent lack of concern of Comelec on the issue of ballot printing - from the bidding stages down to the printing of the ballots to be used for the national elections in spite of evident deficiencies in the capabilities of the supplier appointed by the National Printing Office (NPO) .

Both Comelec and the NPO awarded the ballot printing to Holy Family Printing despite video evidence of ink bleeding in their printed ballots and the PCOS machines' inability to process the same ballots - an event that occurred 8 out of 10 times during the testing.

"You admitted during your confirmation in front of the Commission of Appointments that cheating can happen before, during and after the elections. One of the ways to cheat before elections is by producing excess ballots. How can you not be monitoring such a vital part of our elections?" he told Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes who admitted that no Comelec commissioner was present during the bidding for ballot printers and the consequent testing of the bidders' equipment.

The minority leader was further perturbed by the explanation of NPO legal counsel Atty. Sylvia Banda that bleeding in the ballots printed by Holy Family Printing is allowable given that Smartmatic's own ballots also bled during the 2010 automated elections.

He pointed out that the Terms of Reference drafted by the NPO regarding the printing of the ballots clearly states that no bleeding is allowed in any of the official ballots to be used for the automated elections.

"So given that Smartmatic's ballots bled last time, it is okay for Holy Family's printed ballots to bleed as well even if it clearly says in the Terms of Reference that it shouldn't? Well, that's like telling President Aquino that it's okay if some officials in your administration are corrupt given that it was the same during President Arroyo's time," he said.

"Ballot printing has a budget appropriation. Anything with an appropriation is up for discussion in a budget hearing. This is the responsibility of Congress," he said in response to Chairman Brillantes' attempts to remove the matter from discussion.

He also raised the plan of Comelec to amend the system of transmission of results which he said is contrary to law and does not promote transparency and accountability in the elections.

"It seems that Comelec is sabotaging itself with all these issues surrounding the 2013 elections. Lessons from the 2010 automated elections and even the closely monitored United States of America elections should push the agency to improve and further secure the practice of our right to suffrage. It seems Comelec is moving in the opposite direction," he said.

The senator said that by reducing the number of simultaneous transmissions, Comelec is unwillingly sending the message that cheating can be expected because only limited parties will have access to real-time transmissions.

"Comelec should do all to assure the nation that the election in 2013 will be clean and honest but that doesn't seem to be the case starting with Comelec's disinterest in the ballot printing and decision to reduce the number of simultaneous transmissions of results," Cayetano said.

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