Comelec: May 2018 charter change plebiscite impossible

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 1) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday a plebiscite in May to amend the Constitution is impossible because of time and budget constraints.

Comelec acting chair Robert Lim said manual elections for charter change entail six months of preparations, including two to three months for public bidding of supplies and other contracts.

"Kung bigyan kami ng Congress for public bidding maybe we can do it in 3 to 4 months. Our problem is under the Constitution we have to conduct a plebiscite not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days so we have to comply with public bidding rules," he explained.

The House of Representatives has been pushing for a May 2018 plebiscite for the charter change initiative.

Lim added what is even more critical is the ballot paper.

"Ang matagal diyan yung carbonless paper kasi manual siya eh, so 'pag gagawa ka ng election return, dapat naka-carbonless paper para isa lang ifi-fill up mo. Yun matagal, imported yan ,especially manufactured yan," he said.

[Translation: What takes a long time is the carbonless paper because it's done manually, so when you make an election return, it should be on carbonless paper so you'll need to fill-out only one. That's what takes too long because it's imported.]

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the House might not be able to finish revising the Constitution in time for a plebiscite in May, simultaneous with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

He explained they still need to conduct a massive information drive so the public could understand the proposed changes in the Constitution.

If the House fails to meet this deadline, Alvarez said a new target date for the plebiscite would be May 2019, simultaneous with the 2019 mid-term elections.

For these mid-year polls, the Comelec is buying 97,000 vote counting machines from Smartmatic worth P2.21-billion.

READ: Comelec to buy Smartmatic's vote counting machines for 2019 polls