Comelec 'very concerned' with bombing of NGCP towers in Mindanao

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In a span of five days, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines recorded two bombings of its transmission towers in Mindanao. (File photo)

Highlights

  • Comelec is worried about the possibility of a blackout on election day which could increase the risk of poll anomalies
  • NGCP recorded two bombings of its transmission towers in Mindanao in a span of five days
  • NGCP has asked the help of the local and national government, police and Armed Forces to monitor the safety of transmission towers
  • Comelec hopes to discuss the issue on power supply with the NGCP this week

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday (January 19) expressed grave concern on the possibility of blackouts in Mindanao on election day with the spate of bombings targeting transmission towers.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) placed Mindanao on red alert for 11 hours on January 6 with the absence of reserve power. Blasts also prompted the agency to place the entire Mindanao grid on red alert on January 4.

Lawmakers from the lower house discussed the power crisis in Mindanao last week with the Department of Energy and other stakeholders.

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that there might be a failure of elections in Mindanao if no measures were taken to address the security issue.

Two bombings in five days

On Monday (January 18), NGCP's Tower No. 50 in Brgy. Pantar, Dimayon Bubong, Lanao del Sur was attacked — the second bombing case this year. It happened within five days after the attempt to topple Tower No. 63 in Aleosan, North Cotabato on the evening of January 14.

The agency reported that both towers did not topple, and restoration of Tower No. 50 would begin as soon as the area is secured.

Meanwhile, Tower No. 25 in Ramain, Lanao del Norte, which was bombed on Christmas eve, remains unrepaired, according to NGCP. It said that it still awaits the resolution of the issues between landowner Sambitori and government-owned National Transmission Corporation (Transco).

The NGCP has asked the local and national government, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to help monitor the safety of the transmission towers.

Danger to voters and poll watchers

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the possibility of a blackout increases the risk of poll anomalies, especially after dark. It could also endanger voters and poll watchers, he added.

Although vote counting machines have a battery life of up to 15 hours, Jimenez is worried that widespread blackouts might present security and logistical problems, particularly in the transmission of votes.

Watch: How electronic vote transmission works

Comelec hopes it could discuss the matter with the NGCP within the week.

"The recent bombings have given cause for concern to the Comelec, particularly as it affects the power situation in that part of the Philippines. So the Comelec is reaching out to the NGCP to discuss the matter with them," Jimenez said.

"We're very concerned about the availability of power in the elections," he added.

Gun ban

Comelec also tackled the issue of enforcing the gun ban during the election period.

According to the poll body, it may take on a more "proactive" role in enforcing the gun ban.

Jimenez said the Comelec plans to expand the authority of its gun ban committee, led by Commissioner Al Parreño.

But what the expanded authority will cover is still up for discussion, he added.

Currently, Comelec relies on the police and the military to ensure that only authorized personnel carry firearms during the election period.

Jimenez admitted that the poll body has so far been dependent on updates from law enforcement agencies when it comes to violations.

Comelec, however, wants to get quicker access to reports and initiate investigations.

The election period gun ban runs from January 10 to June 8.

CNN Philippines' JC Gotinga contributed to this report.