May 9, 2013
The poll watchdog group Kontra Daya today called on Malacanang to immediately probe and determine the cause of the massive power outage last May 8 which affected up to 40% of the power in Luzon. The outage lasted for several hours. The group also urged poll officials to outline a comprehensive contingency plan in case it happens again on May 13. It said that with the elections just days away, concerns about widespread power failure is a legitimate concern that could not be dismissed.
The Department of Energy as well as the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines still do not know the cause of the shutdown of five Luzon power plants. The operators of the plant from First Gen have cited “external events” as the cause of the tripping.
“Malacanang should determine the true cause of the outage so that these can be prevented. We are quite concerned with the attitude of the Department of Energy that seeks to downplay the impact of the outage by saying that these things happen frequently,” said Fr. Joe Dizon.
“That this happened just before the elections raises even more concerns about the reliability of the automated election system,” he added.
The group called on Comelec to discuss its contingency measures beyond the battery packs attached to the PCOS machines.
“In the case of another massive power outage, how will the voting take place? It is not enough that PCOS machines have battery packs. What about the entire polling precinct? The lack of electricity will certainly affect the conditions in crowded precincts, will affect BEI (Board of Election Inspectors) members overseeing the voting, etc. How will the blackout affect the transmission of votes? These issues must be addressed by the Comelec. There are too many variables which cannot be addressed by the PCOS battery pack,” Dizon said.
Kontra Daya noted that during the final testing and sealing (FTS) of the PCOS machines last May 6, it has received several reports of delay and even cancellation of the FTS in various precincts in Mindanao due to intermittent power interruption. The region has been experiencing rotating brownouts for several months now because of limited power supply.
For his part, Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said it was too early for the Aquino government to immediately rule out sabotage if it has not yet undertaken an thorough probe of the power outage.
“From the reports we have gathered, the reasons for the outage were events external to the power plants. Something happened outside the plants that we are not yet aware of. That this event can affect five plants, through some kind of domino effect, is truly a cause for concern. The problem of power supply takes place on top of existing problems with the integrity and credibility of the automated election system,” Reyes said.
“The government’s lack of preparedness continues to stoke fear among the electorate. Malacanang should make public a full report within the week, just before the elections. It should refrain from downplaying or trivializing the incident, by saying that these happen all the time, or that these can easily be fixed,” he added.