By Catherine S. Valente, Llanesca Panti Reporters And Anthony Vargas Correspondent
President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday said fears of another massive power blackout are not enough reason to cancel or delay the elections on Monday.
Aquino dispelled fears that the outage that hit half of Luzon on Wednesday was a dry run for a no-election scenario on Monday.
“‘Ginagarantiya ko sa inyo maski anong bibliya kaya kong ipatong ang kamay ko na wala sa interes kong i-postpone pa natin itong eleksyon na ito [I can guarantee you, I can put my hand on any kind of Bible that I have no interest in postponing this election],” the President said, noting that he wants to get the election over and done with so that he can finally focus on the country’s problems.
“We are really raring to end this campaign and election period and to concentrate in fixing the problems of our country,” he added
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said the blackout in Luzon was due to the tripping of five power plants in the Luzon grid.
The President said an investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the blackout.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has also given assurances that there will be enough power supply on election day.
Also, Aquino said he was satisfied with the preparations for Monday’s elections.
He particularly lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) for the steps they took to ensure safe, orderly, peaceful, and credible elections.
He said the AFP and PNP were able to carry out his instructions to go after owners of loose firearms and private armies in 15 provinces deemed electoral hotspots. The PNP and AFP were deputized by the Commission on Elections to address election-related violence.
Despite the President’s assurances of credible elections, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Thursday expressed fears that its candidates would be victims of vote-shaving or vote-padding.
UNA secretary general and campaign manager Tobias “Toby” Tiangco said the recent massive power outage in Luzon “brought anxiety and panic to the voting public.”
He said the blackout “brings back the grim scenario of the 2004 and 2007 elections which were marred by wholesale electoral fraud.”
“UNA votes can be shaved in areas where they are strong, and administration party votes can be padded in their bailiwicks,” he added.
“We are confident that he (Aquino) wants clean elections as much as we do. What is worrisome are the motives of certain individuals and groups who have an agenda separate from the Presid0” he said.
He said that although Aquino will not allow cheating, his allies might resort to it just to ensure their victory.
“We can never underestimate the venality of those who have lofty ambitions, and whose loyalty are not with the President but with themselves alone,” Tiangco said.
The UNA official urged the President to crack the whip on these operators within his party.
“We are calling on the President to be true to his principles. He can discern the motives of his lieutenants, be wise to their platitudes and maneuverings, and crack the whip to make them toe the straight line,” he said.
The PNP on Thursday said it is ready to secure all vital installations and face any eventuality that may arise on Monday.
PNP operations chief Director Alex Paul Monteagudo said in a press briefing that they have already presented to the President their plan to secure vital installations such as power plants and telecommunication facilities, in coordination with the military.
“The AFP will be responsible for securing vital installation in rural areas and also we need coordination since these vital installations or companies have their own security forces,” Monteagudo said.
He said all PNP units have been instructed to give special attention to security measures on Saturday, the last day of the campaign, which in the past had been marred by “last-ditch” election-related incidents.
So far, the PNP has recorded 44 fatalities in 66 election-related incidents nationwide.