3 elections in 3 years in the Phl
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2018 - 12:00am

Many of the aspirants in the coming May 14 elections of new barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) may not have realized yet they would serve only for two years. They won’t be enjoying the three-year mandate for the chairmen and kagawad members of barangay and SK should they get elected next month. This is in accordance with the law passed by the 17th Congress when they postponed for the second time the holding of the barangay and SK polls.

The last SK polls were held in October, 2010 after being twice postponed already, in 2013 and in 2016. The barangay elections, like the SK polls, were also twice postponed. The last barangay elections were held in 2013. It was postponed in 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed concern about the involvement of many barangay officials into illegal drugs. Upon the prodding of President Duterte, the 17th Congress postponed anew the holding of barangay elections last year and reset to hold them this year.

This shortened term of office is perhaps the major reason, among other things, why there was low turnout of candidates running for barangay and SK polls this year. Thus, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc decided to extend the deadline of the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoCs) until Saturday instead of originally last Friday.

The Comelec en banc reached this decision an hour after the 5 p.m. close of office hours last Friday when less than expected turnout of SK candidates showed up in various Comelec offices all over the country to file their CoCs. The Comelec en banc is currently composed of four commissioners as President Duterte has yet to complete filling the vacancies in the seven-man poll body.

Following the forced resignation of ex-Comelec chairman Andres Bautista in December last year, the most senior commissioner at that time, Christian Lim assumed as “acting” chairman. A month before Bautista’s resignation took effect, President Duterte named commissioner Sheriff Abas as new Comelec chairman. (Mea culpa in my Friday column in wrongfully stating it took the President only last February to “nominate” Abas.)

Abas has the distinction of being appointed by two presidents. He was first appointed as Comelec commissioner by former president Benigno “PNoy” Aquino lll in April, 2015 for a seven-year term of office.

As Comelec chairman-designate, Abas will serve the unexpired term of Bautista in February, 2022, or a few months before the next presidential elections. Abas previously hurdled the confirmation proceeding at the Commission on Appointments (CA) in May, 2016 as Comelec commissioner. However, he suffered his first technical by-pass as Comelec chairman nominee when the CA adjourned for their Christmas break last year. For the second time, Abas was by-passed again when the 17th Congress adjourned for their month-long Lenten recess.

Take note, President Duterte merely made the nomination – not an appointment – since this will require Abas to resign as commissioner of the Comelec. This would further cripple the Comelec because the seven-year term of Lim along with fellow Comelec commissioner Arthur Lim also expired at the same day last February.

In the meantime, the Comelec has been busy attending to the barangay and SK elections with only four remaining commissioners on board. They were namely: Abas, Al Parreño, Luie Tito Guia, and Rowena Guanzon.

The poll body finally got a much-needed boost in the arms, so to speak. While moderating our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, The STAR got confirmation from A-1 sources about the recent appointment of new Comelec commissioner. Without the usual fanfare, President Duterte appointed retired Court of Appeals associate justice Succoro Inting to fill one of the three vacant commissioners posts at the Comelec.

The next day, Malacanang officially transmitted Inting’s ad interim appointment to the CA for her confirmation. Like President Duterte, Inting comes from Davao City where she finished her law degree at Ateneo de Davao University in 1980. According to her resume, she rose from the ranks at the judiciary from private law practice to being a public prosecutor until she became judge and later promoted as associate justice of the Court of Appeals.

My sources tell me President Duterte is still vetting the nominees submitted to him for consideration to fill the two remaining vacancies at the Comelec. Among the nominees reportedly include former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, election lawyer George Garcia, and former Liberal Party Biliran Rep.Glen Chong. 

If there is one promising thing about Inting’s appointment is her being not identified with any political groups and is not an election lawyer. She has to brush a lot though with the election laws of the country. While waiting for her confirmation by the CA, Inting though can already report for her office starting today at the Comelec in Intramuros, Manila.

Inting did not show up yet at the Comelec to meet with her fellow commissioners last Friday when they had an emergency en banc meeting to address the low turnout of candidates filing for SK elections. If still not enough candidates, there would likely be some barangays having no SK chairman, or will have less than six SK kagawad being elected.

Since the terms of office of the incumbent barangay and SK officials were extended by the repeated postponement of elections, lawmakers sought to correct it by cutting it to two years for those elected this May.

So those elected next month would have to step down in May, 2020 when their duly elected successors are voted to replace them.

We’ll be having the mid-term elections in May, 2019. And on May, 2020, the next barangay and SK elections will be held, this time, for a full three-year term for all elected officials. Thus, effectively, there would be three elections in our country one after the other in the next three years.

Most likely than not, the lack of candidates for SK polls has nothing to do with election fatigue.

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