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ALLOW WATCHERS TO OBSERVE BALLOT PRINTING – SOLON

Rizal 2nd District Rep. Fidel Nograles is backing the call for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow observers to witness the printing of ballots and the configuration of secure digital cards for voting machines to be used in the upcoming national elections.

This as the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) said the Comelec is barring representatives of political parties and accredited groups from observing the printing of ballots at the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City and the configuration of SD cards at its technical hub in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

The Omnibus Election Code mandates the Comelec to allow the presence of watchers to observe election-related proceedings.

“We cannot allow for any doubt to be cast at the integrity of the elections. Nakikiusap tayo sa Comelec na gaya ng dati, payagan ang mga stakeholders na obserbahan ang ballot printing at SD card configuration nang maging malinaw sa lahat na sa simula pa lang, walang posibilidad ng dayaan na magaganap,” Nograles said.

“If it was allowed before, I fail to understand why they are not allowing it now.”

May be an image of 3 people, people standing and outdoors

The lawmaker expressed bemusement at the poll body’s decision not to allow observers.

“Dahil ba sa COVID-19 protocols kaya ayaw payagan? Pero nasa Alert Level 1 na tayo, at pinapayagan na nga nila ang mga campaign rally, so bakit hindi natin payagan ang mga observers?” Nograles said.

More importantly, stressed the lawyer, the presence of watchers is mandated by law.

Nograles also said allowing observers to witness the ballot printing would help quell doubts or speculation regarding election results.

The Omnibus Election Code mandates the Comelec to allow the presence of watchers to observe election-related proceedings.

Section 15 of the Automated Election Law (Republic Act 9369), meanwhile, states that observers must be present during the printing to prevent the use of fake ballots and ensure that the necessary safeguards, such as bar codes, holograms, color-shifting ink, and microprinting, among others, are provided on the ballot.

Nograles also said that allowing observers to witness the ballot printing would help quell doubts or speculation regarding election results.

He added that it would also be unfair to would-be winners if their victory is clouded by allegations that the elections were not held in a transparent and credible manner.

“Para sa kapakanan ng lahat, kailangang payagan ang observers. There are so many ways how we can get around the issue of crowding and lack of social distancing. I really hope that Comelec reconsiders its decision,” Nograles said.

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