MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) started printing official ballots for the October 23, 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth council) elections, despite moves in Congress to postpone the polls.
The printing of ballots and other election-related forms began at the National Printing Office (NPO) on Wednesday, August 9, starting with ballots for Batanes province, announced Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista and ex-poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who now heads the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), were on hand to witness the activity.
Ballot printing has started #BSKE2017 pic.twitter.com/3Q05nYLxek — James Jimenez (@jabjimenez) August 9, 2017
Jimenez told Rappler that despite plans to postpone the barangay and SK polls, the need to prepare "is the overriding consideration."
He noted that the printing had been delayed, as the Comelec monitored developments on the proposed poll postponement in Congress. Ballot printing "was supposed to start July 20," added Jimenez.
A total of 77 million ballots will be printed – 56 million for the barangay polls and nearly 21 million ballots for SK voters – said Jimenez in a chance interview with reporters last Monday, August 7.
If the bill postponing the October 2017 polls would be signed into law, Jimenez explained that the ballots already printed will be stored and repurposed for the next elections. (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)
In a caucus, the House of Representatives pushed for the postponement of the barangay and SK elections to May 2018, to synchronize it with the plebiscite for the proposed law creating a Bangsamoro entity.
The House also agreed to have incumbent barangay officials remain in their posts in "holdover" capacity until the next polls.
President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to appoint the officials instead, citing the need to weed out those with links to illegal drugs. (READ: Why Duterte's plan to appoint barangay officials violates the Constitution)
Jimenez pointed out that the House caucus' position is just "1/3 of the way to an actual postponement law."
Suspend polls in Mindanao?
Jimenez also said that the Comelec will conduct a public hearing in Davao City on Tuesday, August 15, to tackle whether to suspend the barangay and SK polls in Mindanao.
Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23, after clashes erupted between terrorists and government forces in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The Comelec is accepting position papers of those for or against the postponement in time for the public consultation, added Jimenez.
Submit your position papers on or before 15 August 2017 - on the issue: whether or not to postpone the #BSKE2017 in Mindanao. #KEBs pic.twitter.com/5y4fU2EBiE — James Jimenez (@jabjimenez) August 9, 2017
In case the barangay polls are suspended there, it would be held again "at a reasonably close time to the date [the elections were] originally held, or not later than 30 days after the cessation of the cause of the suspension" in accordance with the law, Jimenez said on Monday.
Factoring in the extension of martial law in Mindanao to December 31, Jimenez said that in the second scenario, the barangay polls in the area could be rescheduled to January 2018, if ever the postponement pushes through. – Rappler.com