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Postponing barangay, SK polls to cost additional P5 billion – Comelec

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Postponing barangay, SK polls to cost additional P5 billion â Comelec
Comelec Chairman George Garciasaid that postponed or not, the Comelec would have to resume the continuing voter registration in October, and new registrants will be added to the list of voters who will be included in the new schedule of the barangay and SK elections.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will need an additional P5 billion if the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will not push through his year, Comelec Chairman George Garcia told senators yesterday.

Garcia said that postponed or not, the Comelec would have to resume the continuing voter registration in October, and new registrants will be added to the list of voters who will be included in the new schedule of the barangay and SK elections.

The poll body projected 29.09 million new registrants when the continuing voter registration resumes.

“That will mean additional number of ballots, indelibble ink, ballpens, padlocks and teachers,” Garcia said during a briefing of the Senate committee on local government chaired by Sen. JV Ejercito.

“If you ask us if the P8.449 billion is enough, it is enough because that is reserved for the Dec. 5, 2022 elections. But if the elections are reset, we will need to add funds because more equipment will be needed which will be used in the elections, especially if the elections are extended to December 2023,” he said.

Garcia projected that from 68 million registered voters on December 2022, the figure may rise to 90 million by 2023.

The additional funds, he said, would cover the cost of the continuous voter registration and allowances for teachers who perform vital tasks during the elections.

Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Chiz Escudero proposed to reset the barangay and SK elections.

Estrada wants the elections to be conducted on the first Monday of December 2023. Escudero wants it on the second Monday of May 2024.

Escudero said the postponement of the elections has advantages, including continuity in government operations at the barangay level, particularly in providing basic social services and implementing national and local programs and projects.

“The proposed measure gives ready access to the institutional memories of grassroots leaders, which could be used in formulating plans, programs and other interventions to adapt to the new normal and to return to the pre-pandemic growth trajectory of the Philippines,” Escudero said.

He said the postponement of the barangay and SK elections would allow both the national and local governments to focus on interventions needed to recover from the pandemic and address the ongoing concerns such as oil prices, inflation and poverty.

“The bill enables the government to realign a portion of the P8.44-billion appropriations for the barangay and SK elections to interventions aimed at sustaining the current momentum in addressing the coronavirus pandemic and achieving our collective socioeconomic objectives,” Escudero said.

House panel OKs poll delay

Voting 12-2, the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms yesterday approved proposals seeking to postpone the barangay and SK elections from Dec. 5, 2022 to Dec. 4, 2023.

“With 12 in favor and two against the postponement, the motion to move the Dec. 5, 2022 synchronized barangay and SK elections to a later date is approved,” declared committee chair Maximo Dalog Jr.

Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel voted against the postponement.

Manuel said he voted “no” based on the results of nationwide consultations with youth leaders, noting another postpoment will paralyze many SKs due to their extended stay in office.

A rundown of the 38 measures showed the primary reasons for seeking the postponement were to save the P8.449-billion budget of the twin polls and its proximity to the May 2022 local and national polls.

Deputy Speaker Aurelio  Gonzales said that while the P8.449-billion budget for the barangay and SK elections would actuallly not be saved, it can be used as a “quick fix” to augment funds for fighting the pandemic.

The Comelec vowed to comply with the law should lawmakers decide to postpone the barangay and SK elections.

Garcia said if the poll body is to decide on the matter, it would push through with the elections as scheduled on Dec. 5.

Garcia said they do not want their preparations for the 2025 elections be affected if the postponement is extended, although he said conducting the barangay and SK elections in May 2023 is reasonable.

“That is not an endorsement from me. That is just an opinion,” he said.

As these developed, poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has opposed calls to postpone the barangay and SK polls, saying it would weaken the importance of the barangays, especially in serving their constituents.

The PPCRV said delaying the elections would deprive people of their right to choose the leaders they want to elect, especially in these trying times due to the pandemic.

“The postponement of the elections also deprives citizens of the right and critical need to replace those leaders who did not fully exercise their voter-given mandate. The postponement of the SK elections stifles the right of the youths to participate and vote for other youth leaders,” the PPCRV said.

The poll watchdog said postponing the barangay and SK elections to pave the way for the transfer of the P8.2-billion poll funds to the government’s COVID response program is unreasonable. –  Sheila Crisostomo, Robertzon Ramirez

COMELEC

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