Jul 302013
A former Commission on Elections (Comelec) lawyer on Tuesday accused the poll body of printing additional ballots two months after the May 13 elections, saying it could be used for “ballot switching.”

At a press conference in Manila, Melchor Magdamo showed the media photographs of the ballots supposedly printed in the last two weeks at a printing house in Quezon City.

He said he learned about the printing from a group of employees from the poll body’s “intelligence group” who were “disgruntled” over reports that the Comelec had used its P30-million intelligence fund to spy on groups critical of the May 13 elections.

“Iyong isang grupo doon sa Comelec, nalaman na P30 million pala ang intelligence fund. Nagalit sila, bakit ang liit ng suweldo nila tapos P30 million pala ang fund,” Magdamo said.

Magdamo suspected that the supposed additional ballots will be used for possible ballot-switching. “Lahat ng areas na may genuine ballots dapat bantayan lahat kasi that is prone to switching,” he said.

Comelec: That’s unlikely

But Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said Magdamo’s accusation was “unlikely” especially since “the printing of the ballots was done in a very transparent manner.”

“Unang una, ang policy natin is one ballot is to one voter… And as any extra ballots were printed, it would have been impossible to keep it a secret, especially for the purpose na sinasabi niya,” Jimenez told GMA News Online by phone.

He also pointed out that the pictures Magdamo showed to the media to serve as proof were “scant” and “not dated.”

“All it showed were bundles of something. Very scant evidence to make these bombastic claims,” Jimenez said as he described Magdamo’s allegation as “kalokohan (nonsense).”

“Even if you did that, it would not accomplish the purpose na sinasabi niya,” Jimenez said.

He saids for one, the ballot-reading Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines will only read the ballots printed with the security features that only Comelec knows.

“The ballots will still have to go through the PCOS for any sort of recount. It’s very easy to spot the fake. They don’t have the security markings that will make the ballot readable by the PCOS,” he said.

The meantime, Jimenez said they would study further Magdamo’s allegations.

“With the caveat that we will have to look at all of his claims, to figure out how to properly respond. This is a very serious allegation. This is not something na pwedeng palusutin lang,” Jimenez said.

Holy Family

Magdamo said the additional ballots were printed by Holy Family Printing Corp., which won the bid to partner with the National Printing Office (NPO) for printing an estimated 54 million ballots needed in the last midterm elections, on Congressional Avenue. He said ballot printing can only be done in two venues: the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the NPO headquarters.

He said that while the Holy Family was the official contractor chosen by the Comelec to print ballots for the 2013 polls, “the printing services must be done inside NPO in EDSA East Triangle and not in Holy Family.”

“The more important question is why print ballots for May 2013 after May 2013? [This] raises many more questions. Why the sudden rush printings 24 hours non-stop last week?” he added.

Magdamo said printing of the additional ballots was completed Thursday last week. He, however, could not tell how many new ballots were printed.

Illegal printing?

Magdamo also said a “whistleblower” in the printing of new ballots was already planning to leave the country.

“Iyong imprentahan [ng ballots] na hindi sa NPO, iyong ongoing printing of ballots, iligal ito… Bakit ka magpi-print ng May 2013 ballots eh tapos na ang eleksyon at ‘yung inimprenta hindi siya sa barangay elections,” Magdamo said, describing the ballots being printed as being “ordinary ballots” not meant for the village polls.

Magdamo also noted that prior to the May 13 elections, the Comelec announced it would be printing 39 million ballots. The figure later changed to 31 million ballots when the Comelec posted details of ballot printing on its official website.

The lawyer suspected that the newly printed ballots could be used “in order to cover up for the declared 39 million ballots to match up with the actual number of ballots in the ballot boxes.”

Magdamo had earlier blown the whistle on the P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract that was supposed to be used in the May 10, 2010 elections. The contract for plastic folders, awarded to OTC Paper Supply Co. to supply 1.8 million folders at P380 each, was later canceled for being extravagant.

For the 2013 polls, Magdamo alleged that Comelec overpriced the approved budget contract (ABC) for the ballot packaging service by as much as 70 percent at P292 million. The Comelec spent P175 million for the service during  the 2010 elections. — with Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News

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