Comelec assured of steady power until May 20


By John Victor D. Ordoñez

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) has borrowed about 1,000 generator sets from the Energy department to ensure continuous power as Filipinos vote for a new president on May 9, according to the election body.

The Department of Energy has also assured Comelec there won’t be any blackouts until the third week of May, Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia told an online news briefing on Sunday.

More than 18,000 national and local positions from president to village councilors are up for grabs in Monday’s elections.

During the 2019 elections, Comelec experienced a seven-hour delay in the transmission of votes to its server because of a power failure.

He told an online forum last week Comelec has contingencies in place in case of technical errors, which he said was unlikely.

“The problem with the seven-hour glitch was due to the Comelec transparency server being overloaded with information,” Mr. Garcia said. Comelec fixed the problem by allowing its server to transmit data to media servers in bulk, he added.

He said 633 of 805 defective vote counting machines had been repaired as of Sunday.

Comelec and its partner agencies are ready for Monday’s national and local elections, its chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan told the same news briefing.

“We have repeatedly stated the principle of the Commission on Elections to protect the sanctity of the vote in whatever circumstances,” he said. “Together with our partner agencies, the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Education, we are going to pursue this to the end.“

“We sincerely hope that there will be no power outages nationwide as the automated election system is heavily dependent on electricity, especially the transmission aspect,” Danilo A. Arao, lead convenor of election watchdog Kontra Daya, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“We have demanded full transparency and accountability in the past on several election-related issues,” he added.

Mr. Arao cited the Comelec’s lack of transparency and accountability during election preparations.

Maria Ela L. Atienza, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said the election body had been slow in deciding election disputes.

“The rank-and-file personnel of the Comelec are used to the process of preparing for elections, however, half of the commissioners are new to the job and not yet confirmed by Congress,” she said in a Viber message.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed three of the seven Comelec officials including the chairman in March after their predecessors retired.

Comelec has yet to resolve cases on appeal with the en banc seeking to disqualify former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. from the presidential race.

Comelec Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan said the lawsuits would be resolved by Tuesday.

Mr. Garcia earlier said the lawsuits would be resolved by end-April.

Mr. Arao said Comelec should show more transparency and accountability in its probe of vote-buying, harassment and intimidation cases.

In a statement on Saturday, Comelec said it was looking at 10 complaints of vote-buying, with at least one complainant having submitted evidence and an affidavit.

Comelec “shortcomings” include the lack of transparency in the printing of ballots and weak public education on safeguards to inspire confidence in the elections, Carlo Africa, a policy specialist for election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Comelec in March randomly examined ballots upon the request of lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal, who said the agency had disallowed observers during ballot printing.

The election body on Saturday destroyed almost a million defective ballots in front of media, members of citizens’ arms and political party representatives at the National Printing Office in Quezon City.

On the other hand, Mr. Africa said Comelec has put health protocols in place to protect voters from the coronavirus.

The agency last week held a demonstration of health protocols for voters who show coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms. Under the rules, voters with coronavirus symptoms may vote inside isolated polling areas.

Election Commissioner Aimee Torrefrance-Neri, who heads Comelec’s new normal committee, earlier said they would create their own medical advisory board to help develop more timely policies and guidelines.

Comelec will also set up medical desks at election precincts to attend to voters with health-related concerns on election day.

Mr. Garcia earlier said face shields, vaccination cards and negative RT-PCR test results would not be required during the elections.

More than 37,000 public schools will host 106,439 voting precincts nationwide on election day, Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones told a televised new briefing last week. More than 65 million Filipinos have registered to vote.

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