Brownouts stall voting in SoCot, Sultan Kudarat

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 May) — Already reeling from delays due to some defective precinct count optical scan or PCOS machines and compact flash (CF) memory cards, the ongoing voting in Koronadal City and parts of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces were further stalled due to power outages on Monday afternoon.

Engr. Santiago Tudio, South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I), said a minor brownout initially hit Koronadal City at around 3 p.m. after strong winds uprooted a mango tree and eventually felled an electric post in Baldostamon Subdivision.

He said the incident caused power outages in portions of Koronadal City’s downtown area, including two major polling centers.

Residents said some parts of the area suffered from brownouts lasting 15 to 30 minutes.

At around 4 p.m., another brownout hit the entire service area of Socoteco I due to the sudden shutdown of the 69-kilovolt (kv) line in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, Tudio said.

He was referring to a major transmission line connecting the area to the critical Mindanao power grid.

Socoteco I serves Koronadal City, eight municipalities of South Cotabato and Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat.

Power was restored 15 minutes later but Tudio said the area’s situation remains volatile.

“We’re still determining the cause of the outage through the NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines),” he said.

Tudio reiterated that the electric cooperative remains on alert and ready to respond to any power-related problem that might hit the area.

Due to the power outages, voting in some polling precincts in the area was stalled for several minutes but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials said the operations of the PCOS machines were not affected since they all have backup batteries.

Dorothy Losa, Koronadal City election officer, said the voting still continued despite the brownouts and earlier problems with the defective PCOS machines and CF cards.

She said two polling precincts — one in Barangay Sto. Nino and another in Zone III of Poblacion — reported problems with their PCOS machine and CF card.

“We instructed our BEIs (board of election inspectors) to continue with the manual voting process. The ballots will just be fed to the machines once the problem is remedied,” Losa said.

Based on reports received by the city election office, some precincts also encountered problems with overheating PCOS machines, erratic display and malfunctions due to oversized ballots.

Duque Kadatuan, acting South Cotabato election supervisor, said voting in some areas were initially delayed due to the malfunctioning PCOS machines but were later fixed after some servicing by the technicians.

He said they resolved the problem with the oversized ballots by allowing the BEIs to cut their edges so they could be fed to the PCOS machines.

“We anticipated these problems with the PCOS machines and most of them were eventually remedied,” he said.

Meantime, Kadatuan said the city and municipal board of canvassers in the area have all convened at noon Monday and properly tested the functionality of their transmission modems and their signals.

Comelec-South Cotabato has jurisdiction over this city and the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

Kadatuan said the provincial board of canvassers will make its initial convening at 6 p.m. Monday. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)