Aquino against postponement of village elections

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President Benigno Aquino lll. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — No need to mess up the poll calendar.

That was President Benigno Aquino’s reaction on Tuesday to a suggestion from Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. that the barangay (village) elections set by law for October this year be postponed to either 2014 or to 2015.

Although he said he had not been fully apprised of Brillantes’ suggestion, Aquino recalled that proposals for postponing the barangay polls had been anchored on the need to synchronize all elections.

But Aquino pointed to an irregular situation, which arose during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, wherein the village polls were postponed several times by Congress, putting into question the mandates given to grassroots’ executives.

“I am apprehensive about the postponement because this could lead to several postponements, as our past experience showed,” the President said in an ambush interview in Cavite City.

He insisted that the mandate of barangay officials, as with all elective positions, should be “secured periodically.”

“So unless I see very good reasons for a postponement, I think I’ll stick with my stand previously that (Comelec) should be able to do it, or they should be able to hold (the elections) as scheduled,” Aquino said.

At the Comelec on Tuesday, Brillantes said the postponement of the barangay and the SK elections would be up to the President.

“It’s really up to the legislature and the President because all acts will have to be signed by the President,’’ Brillantes said. ‘’If the President does not like it, even if Congress passes a postponement law, he can always veto the postponement law.”

On Monday, Brillantes said that if it were up to him, he preferred to move the  barangay and SK elections to either October 2014 or January 2015.

“If they will ask for my recommendations, I would like to postpone the barangay elections,” he said. “I’d like it held in 2014 because if we do it in 2015, it will also be close to 2016. It will be chaotic. Maybe we can hold it in October 2014 or January 2015.”

In his talk on Monday with reporters, Brillantes said postponement of the 2013 barangay elections  would give the Comelec ample time to resolve pending issues in the recent midterm elections.  The Comelec is also still canvassing the votes in the partylist polls.

Brillantes said the poll body also needed time to attend to cases expected to be filed by losing candidates, and to prepare for the presidential election in 2016.   He also said the rescheduling of the barangay elections would require legislation.

On Tuesday, Brillantes stressed that his suggestion for postponing the barangay elections was not unconstitutional, pointing out that the timetable for the barangay polls was not set forth in the Constitution.

“It’s not like the national and local elections, which the Constitution fixes on the first Monday of May,” he said.

Told that the President was apparently not inclined to support a postponement of the barangay elections, Brillantes said: “If the President himself is against the postponement, then we will just have to prepare for it. ”

There are pending bills in both chambers of Congress proposing the postponement of the barangay and SK elections. But lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether to reset the barangay elections to 2015 or to 2016, synchronizing them with the presidential election.

A committee report at the Senate recommends changing the term of office of barangay and SK officials from three to five years. The report is up for second reading.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, author of Senate Bill No. 3296, said the proposed measure sought to change the term of barangay officials “not only to save money to fund other aspects of national development but…to give the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials a longer period to pursue their program of development uninterrupted by concerns for reelection.”

Also on Tuesday, Mr. Aquino expressed reservation at claims by the poll watchdog Automated Election Watch that the just-concluded automated polls lacked safety features to ensure their transparency.

“I don’t think I agree with that but I’d leave it up to Chairman Brillantes to answer this question,” he said.

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