House approves on 2nd reading postponement of barangay, SK polls

Patty Pasion

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House approves on 2nd reading postponement of barangay, SK polls
(UPDATED) House Bill 3384 seeks to defer the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2017

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House of Representatives approved on second reading on Tuesday night, September 6, the bill that seeks the postponement of the barangay and the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections. 

House Bill 3384, which was authored by several House leaders including Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, seeks to defer the barangay and SK elections from October 31 this year to October 2017. 

The committee on elections and suffrage approved the bill earlier on Tuesday.

“By next week, we can pass it on 3rd reading,” committee chairperson CIBAC Representative Sherwin Tugna said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He added that the enactment of the measure, which is supported by President Rodrigo Duterte, is expected to be swift.

“After [passing it on 3rd reading], we will wait for the Senate’s version, which more likely will be the same as the House’s. If they are the same, that will not pass through the bicameral conference committee [and then] it will be submitted to the President for signature,” Tugna said.

Included in the proposal is the holdover provision, which allows the incumbent barangay officials to stay in their posts until new ones are elected next year.  

Senior Deputy Majority Floor Leader Rimpy Bondoc also introduced some approved amendments to HB 3384, which include:

  • Elections will be held every 3 years on the second Monday of May
  • Term of office of the officials will begin 12 noon of June 30
  • Hiring of new employees and promotion of incumbent workers is prohibited 10 days from election day
  • Construction and maintenance of barangay-funded projects shall be prohibited 10 days from election day

“Most of the amendments are items that are written in current laws such as election ban on infrastructure projects and appointments. These do not substantially alter the [proposal to postpone the elections],” Tugna said.

P200 million spent

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, for his part, said the Congress’ move is expected.

“We knew the direction two weeks ago when we attended the [hearing of the] Senate committee on local government. The direction of [Congress] is to really postpone the elections… Ever since August 27, we slowed down with our preparations including the printing of ballots,” he told reporters. (READ: Senate, House agree to postpone SK, barangay polls to 2017

During the hearing, Bautista mentioned that they have already spent P200 million out of the P7 billion allotted for the barangay elections. This is mostly for the expenses on the registration and the printing of ballots.

“Overall, there were funds used but minimal. [For example], the 400,000 printed ballots. Hopefully, we can use it again for the 2017 elections,” said the Comelec chief.

He also noted that there will be a separate round of voter registration next year.

House Speaker Alvarez earlier said he supports the postponement of the polls because the President still has to complete appointments in several government offices. An election period would entail a ban on appointments.

Alvarez also wants to abolish the SK and barangay councils, claiming that “in reality, they are not working.” (READ: Nat’l Youth Commission: Abolishing SK will deprive youth of their voice

He said deferring the elections would allow Congress to enact measures that will abolish these posts.

Senate amendments

On Monday, the Senate approved during plenary debates two amendments proposed by Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto to the pending poll postponement bill.

One amendment will allow all public works projects to continue “before, during and after” the elections, except for “barangay-funded work on roads and bridges.” The other will lift the ban on the hiring or promotion of government employees.

Recto said the twin amendments ensure that important services of the government will not pause during the campaign period for the country’s village officials.

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Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.