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‘Preparations for barangay, SK polls to continue’

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday assured the public that it has not slowed down preparations for the Oct. 23 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said they could not relax in making the preparatory arrangements even if it remains uncertain if the polls will push through.

“We’re doing what we have to do because unlike when the elections were postponed in 2016, we have not yet been informed by Congress if it will push through or not in October,” he said in an interview.

The Senate is also awaiting the House decision on whether to call for or postpone the elections.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said President Duterte’s proposal to postpone the barangay elections was discussed during his last meeting with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, when it was agreed that the House should first be able to pass the measure.

“So let’s wait what happens in the House,” Pimentel told The STAR.

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Rep. Sherwin Tugna of party-list Citizens Battle Against Corruption said the Comelec should continue preparations.

“Without a law postponing the elections, they have to prepare. Otherwise, they would be accused of not doing their job,” said Tugna, who chairs the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

As Congress only has six session days left before the mandatory adjournment on June 3, he admitted that the timeline for approving a bill resetting the elections is tight. Lawmakers will start their second regular session on July 24, the day President Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address.

August, September and October are normally reserved for budget deliberations.

“But if they want us to postpone the polls, we can squeeze in the passage of the bill,” Tugna said.

In case the poll is shelved again, funds are not wasted because the bulk of Comelec spending was for voter registration and the generated database could still be used for the 2019 midterm polls.

“Congress should decide by July so we’ll know what we have to do. Right now, we already have the calendar of activities for the elections,” he noted.

Although some senators are cool to Duterte’s proposal to scrap the polls and instead appoint the officials in the country’s 42,000 barangays, Pimentel said the Constitution might have to be amended first to allow this.

“We need to study because we don’t just dismiss immediately the proposal, and we also don’t accept immediately the proposal… because 42,000 barangays will be affected,” he earlier told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Comelec bids and awards committee is bidding out two contracts for the supplies and courier services needed in the elections.

One contract is for the special courier services for Regions 9, 10, 11, 12, Caraga and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which costs P4.1 million. – With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz


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