By Gerg Cahiles
The Comelec and the DILG are calling on the public to report individuals using communication signal jammers that may interfere with the transmission of election results on Election Day.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has said that the public's help is necessary to achieve honest, orderly, and peaceful elections: "Kung makakita tayo ng instrumento tulad nito, lalung-lalo na sa mga voting centers, sa munisipyo, sa kapitolyo, sa city hall ay ito ang dapat bantayan natin. Hindi po tama, hindi po legal ang paggamit ng mga bagay na ito sa araw ng halalan (These devices, especially near or at voting centers, city and municipal halls, should be watched out for. The use of these things are not right or legal on Election Day)."
Roxas says signal jammers are cheap and readily available at many establishments, even though a National Telecommunications Commission memorandum prohibits the sale and use of the device.
Roxas himself filed an election protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal in 2010, when election results were transmitted through electronic channels, regarding the victory of Binay, questioning the results contained in 76,000 out of the more than 80,000 ballot boxes nationwide.
NTC Chairman Gamaliel Cardoba said the NTC has not issued any permit to use signal jammers and most of these gadgets are just smuggled into the country: "Dahil wala kaming ini-issue na permit, pag nakakita kayo ng nagtitinda, nakakita kayo ng may hawak nito. Meron po silang possession ng smuggled item (Because we have not issued any permit for these things, when you see them being sold, or somebody possessing these, that's possession of a smuggled item)."
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes warns that deliberate interference with the transmission of election results is an election offense that can carry a penalty of eight years in jail.
But, Brillantes underscored, signal jammers can only delay the transmission, but not alter, the data of the election results.
He adds that, in case of transmission problems are encountered, the board of election inspectors have a contingency plans and fallback procedures: "Hindi matitigil ang transmission ng results, made-delay lang (The transmission cannot be aborted, just delayed)."
He said the data of the election results can even be sent out manually, instead of electronically.
The NTC adds that telecommunication companies have pledged to provide good signal on election day.
In areas where there is no conventional signal, Brillantes said, Comelec can use satellite transmission channels.
The Philippine National Police, meanwhile, will sniff out signal jammers using technological resources of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Task Group.
The police will also put up assistance desks at polling centers, where the public can report irregularities, such as the use of signal jammers.
The public can use the PNP 117 hotline, and 9213251, 9267722 for NTC.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.