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Noynoy says no to GMA's emergency powers

Noynoy bucks special powers
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III believes there is no reason to grant President Arroyo emergency powers to deal with the current energy problems brought about by the El Niño phenomenon because the “crisis” could be artificial.

Aquino pointed out there are several ways to help Mindanao deal with its power problem and granting the President emergency powers should be the last resort.

Aquino told editors, columnists and reporters of The STAR that his camp was verifying reports that the energy crisis was artificial and could only be used to further the interests of some groups in the run-up to elections.

He said based on reports, Luzon and the Visayas were not yet affected by the blackouts and only Mindanao has been hit so far.

Aquino said the source of the energy problem must also be looked into properly, as some energy issues could have been addressed early on.

“We want to know, is it because of mismanagement? Is it a prelude to some monkey business come election day? Therefore if it is artificial, the emergency powers will not have any basis,” Aquino said.

Sen. Francis Escudero also said in a radio interview he would not support the granting of emergency powers because it might only be abused by the administration.

Malacañang earlier welcomed a proposal to grant emergency powers to the President in order to address the power crisis.

The Palace said Mrs. Arroyo would consider the proposal of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a member of the opposition, to call a special session of Congress and declare a state of emergency in Mindanao.

Aquino and his running mate, Sen. Manuel Roxas II, have expressed concern over the power outages especially because the country will have its first automated elections in May.

Enough powers

Even Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. and his partymates yesterday rejected the proposal to grant emergency powers to the President.

“Emergency powers are not needed,” Villar said after campaigning in Mandaue, Cebu yesterday.

Villar added that Mrs. Arroyo has enough powers to address the energy crisis.

The NP standard-bearer also questioned why issues on energy are being raised anew months before the elections.

The party-list group Gabriela shared Villar’s sentiments.

“We fear that Mindanao, where Arroyo ‘secured her triumph’ over her opponents in the previous elections, would again become her instrument to stay in power,” said Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.

“While the fact that another El Niño phenomenon is looming cannot be discounted, the government’s deliberate neglect in putting in place mitigating measures cannot be overlooked,” she said.

Gabriela said it is alarmed that instead of setting into motion the government’s backup power initiatives as promised in the Philippine Energy Plan, Arroyo allies in the House are selling the idea that she be given emergency powers to address this crisis, particularly in Mindanao.

No worries

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reiterated yesterday that power interruption on election day is not a cause for concern.

Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said power outage would not cause failure of elections on May 10 primarily because the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines would be equipped with batteries.

“We have backup generators in different towns and when it comes to the operation of the PCOS machines, each unit will have batteries that last for 15 to 16 hours,” Ferrer said.

It was predicted that the country will experience a 440-megawatt power shortage in May, prompting calls to hold a special session for both chambers of Congress to solve the energy crisis.

Some sectors fear the possible power outage on election day will result in a failure of elections.

“I think it’s impossible… Even in places where there’s no signal, voting will not stop. We can continue with the voting and ballots will be stocked there inside the ballot boxes,” he said.

He maintained that since the machines have batteries, they could continue counting the ballots and eventually produce election returns even when there is a blackout.

“So the problem that they are talking about refers to the transmission, not to the actual voting. But if the transmission fails, we can also do a manual transmission,” Ferrer added.

Power summit

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairman Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, meantime, expressed support for the holding of a summit to find solutions to the energy crisis.

CBCP treasurer Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco added: “If it is necessary to obtain the objective, then I am for the summit. I believe even without the looming power crisis, everybody should conserve energy and protect the environment.” – With Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo, Michael Punongbayan, Evelyn Macairan