House approves on final reading postponement of barangay polls
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, just hours after it was also approved on third reading in the Senate.
The bill was approved on final reading just a week after it hurdled the committee level and was passed on second reading on the same day on Sept. 7.
During the nominal voting, the bill was approved by 214 members of the House.
On the other hand, four members were against the approval of the bill. There were no abstentions.
This was the first bill approved by the House of Representatives during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presided the session when the bill was approved on final reading.
The approval of the bill by both Houses of Congress paved the way for the President to sign the bill into law after Congress ratifies the bill.
The postponement is in line with administration’s move to sweep out barangay chairpersons alleged to be coddlers of drug suspects.
Interior Secretary Mike Sueno had said he supports some lawmakers’ proposal to allow the President to appoint competent barangay officers-in-charge (OICs).
But the amended draft of the bill retained the hold-over capacity of incumbent barangay and SK officials until the next elections next year.
“All incumbent officials shall remain in office,” the amended bill read.
The postponement would also allow the President to have a free hand in filling up the vacancies in the bureaucracy and avoid the elections ban of 45 days before a regular election and 30 days before a special election as stated in the Omnibus Election Code.
Alvarez even raised the possibility of using the period of postponement to study legislation to abolish the barangay kagawad and SK for being useless.
According to House Bill 3504 primarily authored by Alvarez and Majority Floor Leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Fariñas, the village and SK polls this year would be deferred to the fourth Monday of October next year or October 23, 2017.
The House version of the bill would be similar to the bill filed at the Senate for the postponement, Fariñas had said.
The bill also sets the next elections after 2017 to the second Monday of May in 2020 and three years thereafter.
The bill also sets the ban on government projects, and the prohibition of appointing and hiring officials in government at least 10 days before the day of the elections.
House suffrage and electoral reforms committee chairperson Sherwin Tugna had said this amendment seeks to rectify the erroneous schedule of synchronizing the barangay and SK elections with the national presidential and midterm elections.
Fariñas had said the House version would have the effect of adopting the Senate version to do away with the bicameral conference, where both Houses of Congress meet to thresh out the differing versions and come up with a united proposed legislation. RAM