THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has called on leaders of Congress to decide early or come up with an amendatory law as early as July if they want to again postpone scheduled synchronized barangay (village) and youth polls.
“We will abide with the wisdom and collective decision of Congress. It doesn’t matter to us if [the elections are]postponed or [if they will]push through. But if [they are]postponed, we appeal to Congress that [they]should not be held very close to the coming 2019 mid-term elections or there should be at least a gap of one year,” Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said on Thursday.
Bautista explained that a late decision by Congress would put to waste ongoing preparations of the poll body, including printing of ballots.
The Comelec, he said, has formed working committees and scheduled preparation timelines for the October 31 village and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or Youth Council) polls.
“Unless Congress gives us the assurance that the polls will be postponed, our preparations will continue. We need to be prepared as mandated by law,” Bautista added.
To be able to conduct the twin polls, the Comelec needs some P6 billion for the conduct of public biddings and procurement of election paraphernalia.
According to Bautista, the printing of ballots is scheduled to start on the last week of July or early August.
The Comelec needs to print 78 million ballots: 57 million for the village elections and 21 million for the SK elections.
“We need a timetable of three months. Two months for the printing and one month for the delivery of ballots,” Bautista said.
The elections were originally scheduled to be held on October 2016.
President Rodrigo Duterte had said he did not want the 2016 village and SK polls to proceed because of the entry of “narco” money into mainstream politics, thus the postponement of the elections to October 2017.
For the same reason, the President broached again the idea this year that he wanted the polls postponed.
Duterte had even floated the idea of declaring all barangay positions vacant and filling them with appointed officials, saying 40 percent of village officials are into drugs.
Under Republic Act 9164 or the Local Government Code, the election for village officials shall be held on the last Monday of October and every three years thereafter.
Earlier, the Church-back Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said there must be a valid reason to justify the postponement of the elections.
Rene Sarmiento, retired Comelec commissioner and now PPCRV chairman, said the holding of elections is part of the democratic process to check the accountability of elected officials to get fresh mandate from the people.
The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms wants the village and SK polls postponed to the second Monday of May 2020.
Bautista said they have no problem with that because it is a year away from the scheduled May 2019 mid-term elections.