No budget for federalism plebiscite in 2019, says Comelec

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has no source of funds yet for a possible plebiscite on a federal constitution if it happens in 2019, said poll chief Sheriff Abas on Thursday, September 20. 

"To be honest sa 'yo, kakailanganin namin ng P6-8 billion ($111-148 million) eh. Hindi namin nasali sa ngayong budget, so more or less wala kaming pagkukunan no'n," Abas told reporters after the plenary deliberations on their budget in 2019. 

(To be honest with you, we will need P6-8 billion. We weren't able to include it in this year's budget, so more or less we have no source of funds for that.)

Abas was asked if the Comelec can get the plebiscite money from contingency funds. 

"Depende (It depends)," Abas answered. "Kung merong batas na magsasabi non, titingnan namin anong nakalagay sa batas (If there's a law that will state that, we will check what is stated in the law)."

Federalism is a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, but Congress has yet to convene into a Constituent Assembly to finalize changes to the constitution. At the Senate alone, Senator Panfilo Lacson said federalism "is already dead and awaiting cremation." 

The Comelec is set to handle another plebiscite – the one on the Bangsamoro Organic Law – that is scheduled on January 2019. The Comelec is requesting P857 million ($15.88 million) for this, Abas said on Thursday.

This is on top of the national and local elections set in May 2019. –

*P53.95 = $1

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at