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Comelec 80% ready for barangay, SK polls in December

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Comelec 80% ready for barangay, SK polls in December
“We can say, right now we are about 70 to 80 percent (ready),” Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said during Thursday’s episode of “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News, when asked about their preparations for the barangay and SK elections.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now 80 percent ready for the holding of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in December this year amid calls to postpone the polls.

“We can say, right now we are about 70 to 80 percent (ready),” Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said during Thursday’s episode of “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News, when asked about their preparations for the barangay and SK elections.

Laudiangco said that they are already done with the procurement of election paraphernalia, which is expected to be delivered in two weeks’ time, while the printing of ballots started last week at the National Printing Office in Quezon City.

He said that the ballots will be made available in 30 days, along with all accountable and non-accountable forms, and can be expected to be delivered within 15 days.

He added that the ballots printed this year – dated Dec. 5, 2022 – can still be used if the elections will be postponed.

While some lawmakers are pushing for the postponement of this year’s barangay and SK elections, Laudiangco reiterated that they will continue with their preparations as he emphasized that they only have two months left before the Dec. 5, 2022 polls.

He said that the Comelec “cannot really afford not to be prepared” in case the postponement of the barangay and SK polls will not push through as he emphasized that they would replicate their preparations in 2017 when the elections were moved to 2018.

“If the law comes mid-printing (of the ballots), the Comelec will have to decide whether to hold the printing or to proceed and to complete the printing. Nothing will be wasted if we finish the printing because we can store them for use next year,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

He added that the Comelec will also release resolutions and guidelines regarding the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC) if the law postponing the elections is signed during the period of filing of COC.

He emphasized that it is now the Comelec that will decide whether to honor the COCs filed this year or to conduct a new schedule for the filing of candidacy next year.

Laudiangco also supported the statement of Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman in saying that the Comelec’s budget cannot be re-allocated to any projects of the government since the poll body is a constitutional commission, enjoying fiscal autonomy.

“Rep. Lagman is correct because we are an independent constitutional commission, enjoying fiscal autonomy. Our budget is called a continuing appropriation. So, all of these budgets have been allotted for the elections,” Laudiangco said.

Given that the elections will be postponed, Laudiangco emphasized that the budget will be sent back to them since the money was allocated for the holding of elections, which might increase if the elections will be held next year.

He emphasized that the Comelec would need an additional P10 billion, on top of their current P8.4 billion budget this year, if the barangay and SK elections will be moved to 2023 due to the expected increase in terms of registered voters.

Citing projections from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Laudiangco said that the 66 million voters for the barangay elections is expected to increase to 73 million, while the 24 million SK voters will increase to 39 million if the elections will be held next year.

“This is what we’ve been saying – that we cannot have savings, and our costs will go up because the number of voters will increase,” he said, adding that the Comelec would also need additional budget for teachers’ honoraria and other expenses.

Laudiangco, however, emphasized that the Comelec would be compelled to slash the budget allotted for teachers’ honoraria if the additional P10 billion budget will not be approved upon the postponement of the elections this year.

Poll watchdogs appeal against postponement

Election watchdogs National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) have renewed their appeal not to postpone the barangay and SK polls.

NAMFREL secretary-general Eric Alvia said that efforts to push for the postponement of the barangay and SK polls are “very disappointing and a blow to democracy” as these reflect lawmakers’ commitment to the people and weaken the voters’ rights to suffrage.

“This reflects the sincerity of our legislators’ commitment to the electorate, and weakens the citizens to hold their local elected officials to account,” Alvia said when asked to comment on the efforts to postpone the barangay and SK elections this year.

LENTE executive director Ona Caritos echoed Alvia’s sentiments, saying that the barangay and SK elections should push through as she emphasized that it has been postponed thrice since 2016, resulting in some officials holding office for up to five years already.

Caritos added that postponing the barangay and SK polls will not help the government in saving funds as it would only result in more expenses, echoing the remarks of the Comelec.

“This consistent delay in the BSKE (barangay and SK elections) contravenes the standard of period elections as provided in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. LENTE sees the BSKE as the most attainable level of citizens’ participation in governance and nation-building,” she said.

She added that further postponement of the barangay and SK polls “is an attack against democracy and community power.”

COMELEC

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