Palace downplays report on 35 polling precincts without power

Palace downplays report on 35 polling precincts without power
By Marvin Sy and Eva Visperas
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang downplayed yesterday a report that 35 precincts are still without power, saying that it is just a dot in the almost 70,000 precincts in the country.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said there should be no reason for anybody to be concerned about the absence of power in 35 polling precincts in areas serviced by the Manila Electric Company since this is not big enough to be considered a problem.

“Do we even have to be concerned about something of that size? But this managed to get a headline on the front page of a newspaper. I mean, please, 35 precincts out of 70,000 that are without power and we give this a headline in the newspaper?” he said in Filipino over Radyo ng Bayan.

The STAR reported the other day that in spite of all the preparations being made for the elections on May 10 and the assurances by the power sector that there would be no problems on that day, around 35 polling precincts and canvassing centers have no power at this time.

Meralco vice president and head of sub-transmission services networks Rustico de Borja Jr. told a press briefing that some precincts and canvassing centers in Caloocan, Montalban and Bulacan are still not connected to the Meralco system.

He explained that based on their inspections, it is because either the line was cut due to non-payment or pilferage or they have been disconnected for a long time.

Borja said the repairs or reconnection of polling precincts or canvassing centers to the main power lines would be completed before May 1.

Olivar said the Comelec had assured the Palace of a smooth conduct of the May 10 automated elections in spite of some problems.

On the lack of power in certain precincts, Olivar said this could be addressed by providing each of these with generator sets.

Fear of brownouts

Meanwhile, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial candidate Jose de Venecia III said the return of rotating blackouts, the erratic performance of base load power plants in the Luzon grid, and the acknowledged fiasco in the Mindanao grid look like rehearsals for the gloom in the May 10 elections.

De Venecia said “the probability of the coming elections being plunged into darkness and confusion remains high.”

He said even if the plants are returned to normal operating status, the voltage supplied to voting precincts could become unstable to prevent the proper operation of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines since they were only subjected to random tests.

While the voting machines may have their own power supply, the public would still be wary of casting their vote in the dark, he said.

“We are now seeing the foolhardiness of the Comelec decision to rush the nationwide deployment of the untested PCOS machines without knowing if they operate at optimum level when subjected to sudden power outages or voltage fluctuations,” De Venecia said.

He added that even in other more advanced countries, the use of automated vote counting machines is normally carried out in phases over several years to determine how the equipment, particularly their internal micro-electronics, work.

In the absence of extensive testing, no one can really tell how well the PCOS equipment can withstand both rough handling and unstable electricity situations, said the ZTE-NBN whistleblower.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.