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Comelec to Congress: Decide on bills to postpone local polls

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Comelec to Congress: Decide on bills to postpone local polls

Andres Bautista

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has urged lawmakers to act by next month on the proposal to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

Comelec Chair Andres Bautista explained that the poll body would simply implement whatever law would be passed regarding the proposed October 2017 polls.

“We will follow the decision of our political leadership [with] respect [to] whether to postpone the polls. We just hope that a decision [will] be made by July,” Bautista said.

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This would enable the Comelec to avoid wasting public funds for its preparations should the elections be deferred eventually, he said.

“The money might go to waste,” Bautista said, referring to proposed measures to reset the barangay and SK elections for the second time under President Duterte’s administration.

Pending bills

A pending bill in the Senate would defer the balloting to October 2018, while the proposal in the House of Representatives would move it to May 2020.

Citing his war on drugs as justification, the President said he wanted the barangay and SK elections shelved anew just like the Oct. 31, 2016, polls.

“If it will be postponed, it should be [on] a date not close to the May 2019 midterm elections,” Bautista said earlier.

Bautista added that the poll body was still pushing through with its preparations for the barangay and SK elections originally slated to be held on Oct. 23, 2017.

“We are on schedule with our timeline for the preparations. We’re not at ‘full speed’ but ‘on track’ with our preparations,” he said.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna, chair of the House suffrage and electoral reforms committee, told the Inquirer in a text message: “The earliest the House can have a hearing is when Congress resumes its session in the last week of July. To date, there are several measures filed [with] our committee for postponement. We can pass the bill in the [House] on three readings once the House leadership and the parties decide to postpone the election, when Congress resumes in July.”

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Last synced elections

The last synchronized barangay and SK elections were held on Oct. 25, 2010. At that time, the idea of abolishing the two elections was floated by the Senate.

In 2013, the SK elections were postponed to February 2015 to allow Congress to reform the youth council. The barangay elections took place on Oct. 28, 2013.

In January 2015, Congress moved to synchronize the two elections again in October 2016.

But in May 2016, Bautista proposed the rescheduling of the two polls, citing the possibility of voters developing “election fatigue.” He was criticized by all six commissioners as a result.

In August last year, Mr. Duterte said he supported the delay, fearing drug money would be used in the campaign.

This was echoed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who urged their colleagues to approve the postponement. —With reports from Vince F. Nonato and Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Andres Bautista, barangay elections, Comelec, SK elections
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