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Lawmakers push barangay, SK polls postponement

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Lawmakers push barangay, SK polls postponement
Opponents of the move, however, point out that any savings would simply be deferred, and inflation could lead to more expensive polls in the future.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — It will make sense if the national government postpones the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections scheduled on Dec. 5, as this would save P8 billion in expenses that can be diverted to financial aid for the poor, according to lawmakers.

Opponents of the move, however, point out that any savings would simply be deferred, and inflation could lead to more expensive polls in the future.

Suspicions have also been raised that certain lawmakers are merely seeking longer terms for relatives in the SK, or repaying favors to barangay officials who serve as their political leaders at the grassroots.

The elections have already been postoned several times, and the Commission on Elections has said another postponement would throw askew preparations for the midterm polls in 2025.

“The more than P8 billion allocated for the barangay and SK elections can be used for an economic stimulus program,” Rep. Tarlac 1st District Rep. Jaime Cojuangco, one of the youngest members of the House of Representatives, said.

“This budgetary allocation can be better used for much more urgent government endeavors. These may include the extension of loans for micro and small businesses, and financial support or ayuda,” he added.

The neophyte lawmaker, son of the late congressman Charlie Cojuangco, authored House Bill 2071 proposing that this year’s electoral exercise be postponed and “rescheduled” on the first Monday of May 2023.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would be presiding over a new administration, with almost all of the funds from the (fiscal year) 2022 national budget already disbursed and spent,” Cojuangco said.

“It would be very difficult for (Marcos) to immediately commence with his objective of jumpstarting the economy besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, among other economic challenges,” he added.

Claims that village and youth officials’ terms may be “over-extended” are nothing new, according to the House member, since the same elections in May 2020 were “already postponed” to December this year.

“Families of unemployed also need assistance. The more important thing now is for us to undertake our proposed ‘Bayan ay Bumangon Muli’ program,” he added.

Cojuangco also joined neophyte lawmaker Richard Gomez, another ally of Marcos, in postponing the elections this year, if only to give the national government some breathing space from expenditures.

Gomez, who represents Leyte’s 4th District and is a former Ormoc City mayor, filed HB 937, saying the government could achieve about P8 billion in savings if the electoral exercise for the grassroots level is postponed this year.

“That’s why a postponement can be called. The remaining balance of the budget for the year and for the barangay and SK elections can be used for agricultural programs, which are badly needed and a priority of the new President,” he said.

He added that the P8 billion budget allotted for the barangay and SK polls “can be used to prioritize the rice program for agricultural mechanization, seeds program and more research for rice production.”

“We can budget the barangay and SK elections next year,” said Gomez whose bill, in effect, seeks to extend the terms of incumbent barangay and SK officials for a year in a holdover capacity.

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