MAJORITY of the members of the House of Representatives agreed to postpone the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections to next year to allow President Rodrigo Duterte to carry out his projects unhampered.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption party-list, the chairman of the Suffrage and Electoral Reforms panel, said majority of the lawmakers agreed for the postponement during a caucus held on Tuesday.
A bill will be filed seeking the holding of the local elections on the fourth Monday of October 2017. The barangay and SK polls were to be held in October this year.
The same bill will extend for a year the term of all incumbent barangay officials.
“We thought the Senate will do it by a joint resolution, but they already conducted a hearing last week, so they decided to file a bill. Having said that, we will file the exact bill,” Tugna said.
“This postponement is for the President to have a free hand in appointing officials in the bureaucracy and for the infrastructure projects to go unhampered. Otherwise, the President will deal with an election ban, meaning he will be banned from appointing people and the government’s infrastructure projects—which are also covered by election ban—will be put on hold,” Tugna told reporters.
But Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said the postponement could be used as a political tool.
“The government may dangle the issue of election postponement to aspiring barangay officer candidates. If they cooperate and switch allegiance, they can have their terms extended. If not, they will be unceremoniously kicked out and replaced,” Elago said in a statement.
“While we remain supportive of the government’s programs for change, we cannot simply allow the telltale signs of aggressive political leveraging,” she added.
In the Senate, Sen.Juan Edgardo Angara formally presented before the plenary a bill seeking to postpone, for a year, the barangay and youth council elections.
In his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill 1112, Angara said the postponement will allow the full implementation of the recently enacted SK Reform Act or Republic Act 10742.
“We clearly hear the voices of those who are against the proposal. We understand the sentiments of our youth who have been waiting for three years for the election. But it is also clear that there are other important aspects that need to be considered, the government is not ready to implement Republic Act 10742,” said Angara, who heads the Senate committee on local government.
He noted that the SK reform act, which was authored by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, was signed into law in January, and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were approved only in July.
One of the salient provisions of the law is the mandatory training of SK officials before they formally assume office.
Angara said the postponement will give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) more time to prepare for the barangay and SK elections.
“Let me emphasize that with this measure, we are not forsaking every person’s right to suffrage. We merely defer its exercise in the hopes of strengthening it and making it more meaningful,” Angara said.
The Comelec supported Congress’ move to postpone the elections.
Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Tuesday said Congress has the power to postpone the twin polls.
“We are ready to proceed with the elections on October 31, but if Congress decides against it, we will support it,” Bautista said.
Following the May 9 national and local elections, Bautista proposed the postponement of the twin elections to avoid election fatigue.