THE Senate and the House of Representatives are closer to passing a measure postponing the barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections set in October this year.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved on second reading a bill moving the elections to next year.
The approval on second reading means that Senate bill 1112 is just a step away from being approved on third and final reading by the upper chamber.
The measure, if passed into law, will not stop the construction of public infrastructure and the appointment of government personnel during barangay and SK election period.
It means that nationally-funded classrooms, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure projects can proceed even during the village elections.
The ban on the appointment and hiring of new employees will only apply to barangay employees and will take effect for a period of 10 days preceding the election.
“This is one jurassic provision in our barangay election laws which should go. Why, for example, would the hiring of policemen or teachers stop just because candidates for barangay kagawad have hit the campaign trail?” Sen. Ralph Recto said in a statement.
At the House of Representatives, the committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms approved the bill that seeks to extend the term of incumbent barangay officials by one year.
House Bill 3384, authored by Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, among others, reset the village and youth council polls to October 2017.
The bill’s authors said the polls should be postponed for a year to give President Rodrigo Duterte a free hand in appointing officials and allow the unhampered construction of vital infrastructure projects.
“Now that we’re done today, this will be up for second reading [approval]tomorrow, and next week for third reading. Then we’ll wait for the Senate version which, most likely, will be the same as our version,” Tugna told reporters.
“The incumbent barangay officials will still hold office until the elections in October 2017,” he added.
IF the Senate adopts the House version, there will be no need for the measure to pass the Bicameral Conference Committee and the bill will be ready for signing by the President.
The House version set the succeeding barangay elections after October 2017 in May 2020 or a year after the 2013 national elections.
“Since the barangay elections won’t coincide with the national elections, there will be no election fatigue. We will have a better election turnout. This will be more reflective of the sentiment of the people,” Tugna added.
But for Mon Casiple of the Institute of Politics and Electoral Reform, postponing the barangay polls, the second time in six years, is whimsical.
“In a democracy, we have a regularity of election. The certainty of election is a basic component of electoral process. I cannot find a valid reason to postpone this election,” Casiple said.
Also on Tuesday, the Commission on Elections said the poll body already spent P200 million of its P7 billion budget for the conduct of the October barangay polls.
The money was used for the printing of 411,000 ballots for the Caraga Region, specifically for the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.
The Comelec stopped the printing of ballots when lawmakers backed the proposal to postpone the election.