MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it will "slow down" preparations for the May 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections following President Rodrigo Duterte's call for Congress to postpone the polls to 2022.
Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez made the statement in a press conference on Thursday, August 1, as the poll body opened a new round of voter registration. (READ: #PHvote: How to register as voter in the Philippines)
"Obviously, we can't stop our preparations, but always in the back of our minds, we're proofing our procedures so that in case the postponement is decided on, we won't be too compromised," Jimenez said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"So everything slows down a little bit until we finally get that law passed and signed by the President," he added.
What call to postpone? In his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte called on lawmakers to pass a bill postponing the May 2020 barangay and SK polls to 2022. This would be to give more time for elected officials to complete their projects after the elections held in 2018.
"I also implore Congress...you have to study this very carefully.... Because if you read it, this [is] to rectify the truncated terms," the President said in his SONA.
Prior to this, barangay and SK elections were already postponed twice under the Duterte administration. (READ: TIMELINE: Efforts to postpone barangay, SK elections)
The polls were first postponed from October 2016 to October 2017, then pushed back once more to May 2018 after Duterte signed Republic Act No. 10952.
What's the effect on the Comelec? Jimenez explained that possible adjustments would be made in bidding out contracts and evaluating polling precincts.
For instance, Jimenez said, the poll body could employ "bidding short of awards" where it would complete the bidding process but hold off on awarding the contracts to suppliers.
As for other aspects like evaluating the usability of precincts, Jimenez said the Comelec would "literally slow everything down" by extending the period given for reviews.
Despite this, Jimenez assured the public that the poll body will be ready for the elections, whether they would push through in May 2020 or be rescheduled to a later date.
"We will be ready. In fact, what's most important now is that now that we know, we are able to plan forward," he said. – Rappler.com