President signs law resetting barangay polls to May 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed into law a bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to May next year.
The elections had been scheduled for Oct. 23, but Republic Act No. 10952 rescheduled them to the second Monday of May 2018.
Congress passed the bill postponing the twin elections amid Mr. Duterte’s repeated assertions that he did not want the balloting to proceed because candidates backed by drug traders would win.
Mr. Duterte claimed that 40 percent of barangay officials were involved in the narcotics trade.
Incumbents stay in office
RA 10952 says incumbent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials should remain in office until their successors have been elected, unless they are removed or suspended for cause.
The law provides for a continuing appropriation of P6.090 billion for the holding of the synchronized elections.
It says that until new youth officials are elected, the Sangguniang Kabataan should not use its funds except for youth development and empowerment programs.
This was the second time that Mr. Duterte had signed a law postponing the barangay elections.
He earlier rescheduled the village elections from Oct. 31, 2016, to Oct. 23, 2017.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Wednesday that it would issue resolutions to enforce the postponement law, after spending around P840 million for the preparations for the twin elections.
“Spent approximately P840 million as of Sept. 29, 2017,” said Comelec Chair Andres Bautista.
Ballots can still be used
It would not be a waste of money, however, as Bautista said earlier that the Comelec was looking into the possibility of using the ballots printed for the two elections in the next elections.
“The expenses also cover overtime because of employees, personnel and mobilization expenses. But not all expenses would be put to waste. We are now studying how we can use the printed ballots for the next elections,” he said.
The Comelec is considering two options: using the ballots dated Oct. 23, 2017, in the May 14, 2018, elections or using stickers to cover the old dates on the ballots.
There is no problem with that, Bautista said, because unlike national and local elections, barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are conducted manually, meaning the ballots do not contain the names of candidates.
The full commission will decide which option to take and issue a resolution, he said.
The Comelec said earlier that it had completed the printing of more than 59 million ballots for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on Wednesday said adjustments would be made to the commission’s preparations based on the new date of the elections.
“Work goes on for us,” Jimenez said in a statement.
He said all agencies and election partners of the Comelec had been advised to immediately begin rolling back their election-related activities.
Jimenez also said checkpoints and the election gun ban would no longer be enforced.
As for people who had been apprehended for violation of the gun ban, Jimenez said the Comelec would study whether to proceed with the cases.
The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the Comelec’s citizen arm, welcomed the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
“The uncertainty among incumbent barangay officials, among possible candidates, among nongovernmental organization electoral groups and even within PPCRV … will be put to a stop,” said PPCRV chair Rene Sarmiento.
“Time, effort and expenses can be channeled to other constructive nation-building concerns,” he added.
Barangay officials also welcomed the postponement of the elections.
In Albay province, Joseph Philip Lee, president of the Association of Barangay Captains, said the postponement would be an opportunity for all incumbent village officials to pursue services they had promised to their constituents. —With a report from Mar S. Arguelles
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.