THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has called on Congress to decide as early as possible or until July if it wants village and youth polls postponed.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said on Wednesday that an early pronouncement on whether to postpone or push through with the scheduled elections on October 31 was necessary to avoid unnecessary expenses and other problems.
“They should decide by July because if it goes further then we may incur problems that could be costly for us,” said Jimenez at a breakfast forum at Café Adriatico in Malate, Manila.
“By July we should have settled it one way or another through Congress. The problem is that until the postponement is announced, our preparation will still go on,” he added.
The Comelec needs some P6 billion to conduct the twin polls, which requires public biddings and procurement of election materials.
Unless Congress passes a law postponing the polls, the October 31 elections will push through as scheduled, Jimenez said.
“We need to be prepared even if we still don’t know if it will push through or not,” he said
Under Republic Act 9164 or the law mandating synchronized barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections, the polls should be held on the last Monday of October and every three years thereafter.
President Rodrigo Duterte had broached the idea of postponing again the barangay polls and declaring all positions vacant, with the officials to be replaced with appointed officials. The President claims 40 percent of barangay officials were involved in illegal drugs.
Congress moved the October 2016 barangay and youth polls to October 2017, as the President did not want drug syndicates to influence the result.
In the same forum, Sen. Francis Pangilinan warned the President against postponing the elections anew and appointing barangay officials, saying it would be an impingement on the people’s right to choose their leaders.
“It is worrisome that the President should even contemplate such a rash decision that encroaches dangerously into authoritarian ideologies reminiscent of those harbored and exemplified by the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos,” the senator, who is also president of the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party, pointed out.
The senator insisted that the barangay election should be held this year to give the Comelec time to prepare for the midterm election in 2019.
“The barangay elections should not be held too closely to the midterm elections. By next year, we will prepare again for the 2019 election,” he said.
“We should trust the voters to decide who they want. If they know (that a candidate) is connected to drugs, then don’t vote for them. I think that’s the best way,” Pangilinan added.
The Church-back Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said there must be a valid reason to justify the postponement of elections.
Retired Comelec commissioner and now PPCRV chief Rene Sarmiento stressed that the holding of elections is part of the democratic process to ensure the accountability of elected officials and allow them to get a fresh mandate from the people.
WITH A REPORT FROM KENNETH HERNANDEZ