THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has said that most of the preparations are in place for the 2019 National and Local Elections (NLE) which will be held in less than three weeks.

The poll body reported on Friday that it has already finished printing the ballots to be used for the midterm elections. The 2019 NLE will utilize 63,662,481 ballots.

“For the printing of the ballots, we’re done. We only have around 6 million ballots for verification and after that it will be shipped out,” said Comelec Director IV for Election and Barangay Affairs Teopisto E. Elnas, Jr. to reporters in a press briefing on Friday.

Mr. Elnas said that the Comelec already ordered the deployment of the ballots to priority areas such as Batanes and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The delivery of ballots to all city municipal treasurer’s offices will be completed by May 4. The elections will be held on May 13.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Friday that it is working on helping overseas voters experiencing delays in receiving their ballots through mail.

“In the interest of time, the DFA has authorized the concerned Foreign Service Posts to advance the cost of the remaining postage fees in order bridge the funding gap while awaiting the remittance from COMELEC,” DFA said, adding it will coordinate with the poll body to speed up the process.

The Comelec also said that all Vote Counting Machines (VCMs)to be used on election day have already been delivered to the areas they will be used nationwide.

“Our VCMs to be used in the conduct of elections are already in the different regional and local hubs. [The machines] will be dispatched for final testing and screening in the different polling places and [they] will remain there until election time,” said Mr. Elnas.

The Comelec is also set to deliver 7,000 contingency VCMs to some areas nationwide.

The Comelec is working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure peace and order during the elections.

“We have deputized the military and the police for the purposes of the elections. Sa peace and order, mandata nila ’yun (For peace and order, that is their mandate),” said Mr. Elnas.

The Comelec is also set to conduct elections for prisoners and detainees, with Mr. Elnas saying “We have around 65,000 detainee voters who will exercise their right to vote on election day… around 200 jail facilities around the country will be involved in the inmate voting.”

In addition, indigenous people (IP) voters in far off areas won’t be left behind as the Comelec has set up 33 accessible voting centers for them nationwide.

The Comelec also stressed that energy will not be a concern in the week of the elections as they have back-up generators in precincts and have also coordinated with concerned entities to ensure there are no power outages during the polls.

“Our field officials are in coordination with local electric cooperatives to ensure 100% power supply,” Mr. Elnas said. — Gillian M. Cortez