MANILA -- Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials assured Monday that they have counter measures to prevent signal jammers from disrupting the automated elections on May 10.

The assurance came after the poll body received unverified reports three weeks ago that a huge shipment of signal jammer devices is being shipped in the country.

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Signal jammers are commonly used in theaters and churches to prevent disruption from incoming calls and text messages.

Nothing extraordinary

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, however, said "it's really nothing extraordinary except that news reports have it that the shipment of jammers is in large quantities."

Jimenez said reports reaching the poll body suggest that 5,000 or more units are being brought in the country.

He clarified that the shipment, by itself, is not illegal, and assured the commission is prepared for these kinds of malicious acts.

"We cannot help but be suspicious and, in fact, at this stage, it is only prudent to be suspicious," said Jimenez.

In fact, the Smartmatic and Comelec have long considered the absence of cell phone signals through their site surveys and purchase of broadband global area network satellites to ensure that the poll machines will be able to transmit election data without any notable delays.

Jimenez said the poll body can use anti-jammers to counter the equipment.

"What's important is that this counter measures are available and that we have the means and the inclination to use them if needed," he said.

Other options

But if the transmission does fail in certain areas due to problems in network coverage, the Comelec and Smartmatic officials still have other options to consider.

One of which is to bring the memory chip of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine all the way to the canvassing center to be read.

The poll body vowed to fight certain groups that may be planning to disrupt the first-ever automated elections in the country.

"It is in the Comelec's mandate to ensure that there are orderly elections and it's just not the automation project that is defending itself, it is the Comelec defending the election process," said Jimenez.

The poll body is already working with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to verify who brought them in and to know the reason behind the shipment.

BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales, in a report, said he has already instructed the customs intelligence section to look into the reported huge shipment of signal jammers.

The bureau, according to Morales, will also coordinate with the National Telecommunications Commission for regulations regarding the cellular phone signal jammers' importation.

For its part, Malacañang said the report is also being investigated and there is no reason to be alarmed.

"I don't think it rises yet to the level where the President needs to act on it. This is something Comelec can continue to handle," said Deputy Presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar on Monday.

Olivar believed that the poll body has the authority to request for actions to be taken if there's a need to stop the entry of the signal jammers, provided the report is true and has been verified. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)