MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has again moved the start of the printing of the official ballots for the May national and local elections from Feb. 1 to Feb. 8.

Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said he approved to move the start of the ballot printing for another week “with a heavy heart.”

“Itong movement of printing ay with a heavy heart. Masama sa loob ko. I didn’t want to move the printing (date),” he said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

The printing schedule has been moved three times. It was originally set on Jan. 26, but was changed to Feb. 1 since the poll body is still purging the list of candidates.

“If you recall, our initial target date was Jan. 26… We moved it to Feb. 1 and the reason for that is because we are still cleansing the list of candidates,” Lim added.

At the same time, the poll body official said that they are looking to finalize the list of the candidates for all positions by Feb. 3.

“We will finalize the list of candidates by Feb. 3… We understand that there’s an ongoing oral argument and we hope that the Supreme Court can close the oral arguments by today, but we have to finalize the list of candidates by Feb. 3,” he said.

Lim warned that moving the schedule of printing again could mean a postponement of the forthcoming polls.

“If they still move the printing date, then they better be ready also to postpone the elections if you move that further,” he said.

According to Lim, in the 2013 and 2010 polls, they started printing the ballots in the first week of February.

For his part, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista admitted that they moved anew the schedule to accommodate the calls of certain sectors.

“As I said, we are trying to accommodate the calls of certain quarters… Kumbaga just to show that we are not trying to railroad or trying to favor any candidate,” he said.

However, the poll body chief did not identify “those certain quarters.”

At the same time, Bautista is hoping that the High Court will soon issue decisions on cases of candidates pending before them.

“We think though that it would be better if a final decision is reached in respect of the cases against certain candidates,” he added.

The poll official sad the National Printing Office (NPO) has three Canon printers that can print one million ballots per day. Ferdinand Patinio/PNA/