6 May 2019
As a senatorial candidate and a practicing election lawyer, I was alarmed by the Commision on Election’s (Comelec) position that the recently discovered defective marking pens that will be used by the voters to shade the ballots is a mere “last minute hiccup”.
With only a week to go before the May 13, polls, the Comelec should have already purchased new marking pens to replace those found out to be of poor quality or pens that bleed or blot and are not quick-drying which the Comelec said it had already “recalled”.
Comelec should advise the candidates and political parties if it had already made the “emergency purchase” of marking pens to replace the defective pens.
Since this problem affects the entire 85,000 clustered precincts all over the country, we can just imagine the magnitude and extent of this problem if these pens are not delivered on or before the election.
Any smudge or blot on the ballot might affect the capability of the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to read the ballots as the blot could spread to the ovals opposite the names of other candidates. The blot could also affect the back of the ballot which also contains names and positions of other candidates.
Each clustered precinct needs at least 7 pens or a total of 595,000 pens to be delivered all over the country not only on election day but during the final testing and sealing (FTS) of the vote counting machines which will start tomorrow May 7. Since actual ballots will be used during the FTS, it is imperative that these pens be at the precincts on or before May 7 so that they could also be tested.
The Comelec should also make sure that the paper used in printing the ballots passed the quality-control standards otherwise if it turns out that the “bleeding” is caused by the quality of the paper used, then there is the danger of having our election postponed until such time that these matters are fully resolved.
The same scenario of election postponement will occur if these replacement marking pens are not delivered to all the 85,000 clustered precincts before the May 13 election for we cannot have election in some areas with marking pens and postponement of election in areas where these pens are not delivered on time.
Otherwise, if election results are known in advance in areas where elections are held, then candidates with more funding could just rush to the areas where elections are postponed to gather more votes since they already know the number of votes they still need to win the election.
In a word, we do not have to worry about the alleged or reported “pre-shaded ballots” as such scenario will never happen or could easily be detected. We should worry about these defective marking pens which Comelec should not treat as a mere “last minute hiccup” since until now the electoral boards of these 85,000 clustered precincts have not yet received their replacement marking pens which are needed in tomorrow’s (May 7) start of FTS in all the 85,000 clustered precincts all over the country.