House defers village polls to May 14, 2018
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill postponing the barangay elections to May 14 next year, barely six weeks before the poll exercise is supposed to be held on Oct. 23.
House Bill No. 6308 was approved on Monday with 213 voting in favor of the measure and 10 voting against it.
If the bill is finally enacted, the elections for the barangays—the country’s smallest political unit—and the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) would be postponed by seven months to May 14, 2018.
The next election would be held two years later, on May 11, 2020, with the succeeding elections to be held every three years. The term of the elected officials would begin on June 30.
The bill also provides for the incumbent barangay officials, who were elected originally to a three-year term in 2013, to remain in a holdover capacity, effectively extending their stay in public office.
The elections would be funded using the P901.15-million balance for the SK elections and P155.167-million balance for the SK registration under the 2015 budget, as well as the P5.915-billion balance for the SK and barangay elections and the P422.734-million balance for the SK and barangay registration under the 2016 budget.
These Commission on Elections (Comelec) appropriations total P7.394 billion.
Senate counterpart bill
Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, chair of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, expressed hope that the Senate would pass its counterpart measure soon.
Since the Comelec operated as if the elections would push through pending Congress’ moves, Tugna said aspiring barangay and SK officials would have to file their certificates of candidacy starting Sept. 23.
“I believe that the Senate is also on its way to passing the counterpart barangay postponement bill. That way, (candidates aspiring) to be barangay captains, kagawads and SK officials will not be troubled by filing a certificate of candidacy,” Tugna said in a text message.
Senate version allows OICs
Tugna said last week that the approved House bill would most likely be taken up in a bicameral conference with the Senate, as its counterpart measure sought the postponement of the elections to the even later date of Oct. 22, 2018.
The report of the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, also retains incumbent officials in a holdover capacity until their successors are elected—or until President Duterte appoints officers in charge in their place.
House members who rejected the postponement of elections mostly invoked the violation of citizens’ right to vote their barangay and SK officials, and also questioned the logic of extending incumbent officials’ terms after Mr. Duterte had raised the bogey of narcopolitics at the barangay level.
Those who voted no included Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar and Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora, as well as Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan party-list Rep. Tomasito Villarin of the opposition Magnificent Seven.
The other six who rejected the measure were members of the left-wing Makabayan bloc: Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, and ACT Teachers Reps. France Castro and Antonio Tinio.
Tampering with electoral will
In his explanation before the House plenary, Del Mar said the measure violated the central purpose of holding regular elections. He said “tampering with the term of sitting barangay officials violates the will of barangay voters.”
Del Mar also claimed that the postponement of the elections would keep coddlers of the illegal drug trade in office for another seven months, he said.
Brosas questioned why the entire electoral exercise had to be “killed” just because 40 percent, or 1,684, of barangay chairs allegedly dealt with narcopolitics.