MANILA, March 9 2004
(MALAYA) By JP LOPEZ Rolls of paper supposedly delivered to the National Printing Office and which are enough to print two million ballots have been reported as missing, former Senate President Ernesto Maceda said yesterday.

Describing the disappearance of "water-marked" papers as a prelude to massive cheating in the May 10 elections, Maceda, a senatorial bet of the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino, asked the Commission on Elections to conduct an investigation.

Maceda, in a telephone interview, said Mega Pacific Consortium Inc., the paper supplier, supposedly delivered rolls of paper to the NPO office in Quezon City for printing ballots for the May 10 elections.

Maceda said the MPCI, whose contract to supply automated counting machines with the Comelec was recently voided by the Supreme Court, could present receipts of deliveries.

But the NPO, Maceda said, claimed there was short delivery.

Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos asked Maceda for details. He also said the Comelec tapped the company Multiform to supply the paper and not Mega Pacific.

He said printed official ballots are being kept at the NPO office on Edsa in Quezon City.

He said that KNP representatives should know whether there were missing ballots, considering, he said, the opposition has three representatives at the NPO.

"They have the records of how many ballots were printed and they were allowed to observe the process from the start of the printing process, the numbering and safekeeping of official ballots," Abalos said.

He added watchers were also allowed to guard the premises of NPO on a 24-hour basis.

Maceda said it was Mega Pacific which informed him of the disappearance of the paper.

He also said the printing of ballots could be done in other areas outside the NPO.

"It's now the matter of who's telling the truth. Ang nagsabi sa akin eh Mega Pacific. Tingnan natin who would turn out to be telling the truth," he said.

A source said that while Multiform won in the bidding, it was Mega Pacific which actually supplied the paper to the NPO.

The source said the disappearance of the ballots could be part "already of what we are suspecting all along of grand plan (of Malacaņang) to cheat in the elections."

The source added that Melanio Torio, former NPO director, was "forcibly removed" by Arroyo and replaced with Ronald Velasco, brother of Rene Velasco, deputy chief of staff.

Maceda recalled that President Arroyo's strategist, Ronnie Puno, has a "program" for making a list of 20 voters per precinct.

"If you tie it up, the excess printed ballots could be used to vote ... be voted by these 20 voters per precinct," he said.

Maceda said he was not discounting the possibility that the papers were deliberately "lost" so government could print "excess" ballots.

"Iyong sinasabi ni Mike Defensor na they will win by 5 million just like that ... Maybe this is part of it. I think they are planning to print 5 million excess ballots," he said.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Maceda's disclosure is hard to believe.

He said the process from procurement of materials to actual printing and distribution of the ballots is well monitored by representatives of all political parties. (With Rhoel Fernandez, Regina Bengco, Jocelyn Montemayor)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved