Comelec to be probed on printing

SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday said he would grill Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista over the decision to award the printing of election ballots to a private company instead of the National Printing Office.

“We will ask why there was a change in the system,” Marcos told The Standard.

“I see a change. But I don’t know if it’s irregular. I’ll be interested to hear their explanations,” he added.

Normally, he said, the NPO should do the printing.

Senator JV Ejercito said assigning the printing of ballots to a private entity was dangerous, since classified and vital government documents should be printed by the NPO.

“It’s the reason  NPO was there,” he said, adding that he would rather trust the NPO than a private company to do the job.

On Sunday, lawmakers from the independent minority bloc in the House questioned the government’s reasons for awarding contracts worth P40 billion for the printing of sensitive official documents, including 60 million ballots for the 2016 elections.

The NPO union has sought the intervention by Congress after the government awarded a contract to the Comelec’s IT service provider, Smartmatic, to print 60 million ballots at P20 per ballot for 2016.

“That’s P1.2 billion off government coffers that would benefit the private contractor. It was the NPO that printed the ballots in 2013 at P5 per ballot, that suited the PCOS machines operated by Smartmatic,” said Rosa Muñoz, NPO Workers’ Association president.

Muñoz said even the P38-billion six-year e-Passport contract that the NPO was mandated to print was awarded to a private contractor, Asian Production Unit, which has been linked to Malacañang.

“The government has deprived us the exclusive rights to print the ballots and the passports. While these major contracts had been subjected to public bidding, the NPO was barred from joining the bidding. We were relegated [to being] an observer,” Muñoz said. 

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