Comelec, NGCP to meet on preventing power outages in Mindanao during polls
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed concern, on Tuesday, over the possibility of having power outages during the May elections following the series of bombings on power transmission facilities in Mindanao.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, in a press briefing, said the poll body would soon meet with officials of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to discuss the matter.
“If you have power outages during elections, that would probably be predisposed to other problems. We are very concerned about that. That’s why the Comelec will meet with the NGCP hopefully, sometime this week,” he said.
But Jimenez was quick to add that the problem was not with the vote-counting machines but with the “environment” of the elections.
He said the vote-counting machines could run up to 14 to 15 hours on a battery. He added generator sets would be placed on standby.
“The issue really is not with the elections per se. It’s with the environment of the elections. It becomes a little complicated,” he said, adding that one problem could be the elections running until the late hours.
“In the past you may have noticed how we extended the voting hours up to 7 p.m. and it gets really dark out there when there is no other source of light. It can get really intimidating so it’s better if the power situation is clarified this early,” Jimenez said.
“In the interest of prudence, these are things that we are already talking about – and yes, things like violence against voters, violence against teachers, things like vandalism, breaking into a locked precinct. These things are the possibilities that are being considered, especially if you’re looking at a situation where there is darkness,” he added.
The spate of bombings also prompted the Comelec to consider expanding the scope of its gun ban committee. “The poll body is thinking if the gun ban committee can handle also election security,” the Comelec spokesman pointed out.
He said the Comelec has been considering actively inquiring into security situations and might “take more active roles in decision-making with regard to the deployment of forces, among other things.”
“We are also looking at a more proactive role for the Comelec in securing the elections and making sure that everyone is safe on election day,” he added.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier said the credibility of the 2016 automated elections would be questioned if the supply of power in vote-rich Mindanao would be scarce.
Rodriguez urged the police and military to capture the perpetrators of the bombings that have toppled 18 steel towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) since 2015, plunging some parts of Mindanao into darkness.
For the year 2015, the NGCP said at least 16 towers were bombed and caused massive blackout in Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been blamed for the spate of bombings. It has denied the allegations.
The bombings have resulted in power outages in Cotabato city, North Cotabato, and Maguindanao, among others. SFM