Robertzon Ramirez – The Philippine Star
January 19, 2022 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Official ballots for the upcoming elections will be printed on time or at least 110 days before the May 9 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.
The poll body and the National Printing Office are preparing to print ballots for manual overseas and local absentee voting.
Helen Aguila-Flores, Comelec printing committee vice chair, said they have started printing sample ballots, but not for official use as these were utilized during the poll body’s road shows as well as during the mock elections in December.
“But tomorrow, as soon as we are able to manage dependencies, we are ready to print the manual ballots for the overseas voting as well as the ballots for the local absentee voting,” Flores told journalists during a virtual walkthrough yesterday.
Flores said they have to start printing ballots for overseas voting as these have to be sent abroad.
Overseas voting is usually conducted a month before the May 9 elections, along with the local absentee voting.
The approved budget for the printing of ballots is P1.3 billion.
Flores said the Comelec targets to finish the printing by April 21.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said three printers – one procured for the 2022 polls and two in 2019 – would be used to ensure that the printing of ballots will be done before the May national and local elections.
The Comelec said it would print a total of 67,442,714 official ballots for the May presidential and local elections.
Of the figure, 1,697,202 will be used for overseas voting and 65,745,512 for local absentee voting.
The official ballot will bear three security features such as the QR codes, security and timing marks and the invisible ultraviolet authentication marks to ensure that only legitimate ballots would be used on May 9.
As of yesterday afternoon, the Comelec has yet to come up with the final list of candidates.
The Comelec identified 10 presidential aspirants in the tentative list it published yesterday, led by former Malacañang spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody de Guzman, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Norberto Gonzales.
Sen. Ping Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Jose Montemayor, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo also made it to the tentative list of the Comelec for presidential aspirants.
The nine vice presidential bets are Rep. Lito Atienza, Walden Bello, Rizalito David, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, Emmanuel Sto. Domingo Lopes, Dr. Willie Ong, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Carlos Serapio and Sen. Vicente Sotto III.
At least 64 senatorial candidates made it to the Comelec’s tentative list yesterday.
Election Not mandatory
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez clarified that presidential bets are not mandated to join debates that the poll body will organize.
“Under the law, participation in the debate is not mandatory. We don’t have a choice. We cannot force them to join the debates,” Jimenez said.
But historically, Jimenez said, candidates join in debates that the Comelec is organizing as it will give them free airtime to inform the people about their platform of governance.
“Ultimately, the coverage, the exposure, that is what ultimately tips the balance I think for candidates,” Jimenez said.
The Comelec said it would organize presidential debates starting next month.
Jimenez said they would start the signing of a memorandum of agreement with each candidate in this year’s elections to discuss the rules of the debates.
He said the poll body is hoping to organize one set of presidential and vice presidential debates per month from February to April.