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Duterte postpones barangay, SK polls to May 2018

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to the second Monday of May 2018. 

The barangay and SK polls were originally scheduled on October 23 this year.

Duterte signed this law, Republic Act 10952, on Monday, October 2. Malacañang released to reporters a copy of the signed law on Wednesday, October 4.

The bill states that "until their successors shall have been duly elected and qualified, all incumbent barangay officials shall remain in office, unless sooner removed or suspended for cause."

The amount of P6,090,324,325.16 ($119,515,908.78) "shall be considered as continuing appropriations and shall be used exclusively for the conduct of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan registration and elections in May 2018."

The following will also be banned 10 days before the barangay and SK elections: 

In a statement, the Commission on Elections said it welcomes the news that Duterte has signed the law postponing the barangay and SK elections.

"Adjustments will be made to the Comelec's current preparations, taking the new date of elections into consideration, and continuing on going activities for the 2019 exercise. Work goes on for us," Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said. 

"In the meantime, we advise all deputized agencies and election partners to immediately begin ramping down their election related activities and await more detailed instructions, directives, and guidelines from the Commission on how to move forward," Jimenez added.

A memorandum from the Office of the Chairman on Wednesday suspended all preparations and activities in relation to the barangay and SK polls.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) followed suit and suspended its operational guidelines and activities in relation to the gun ban and the Comelec checkpoints in Luzon and the Visayas.

As for the official lifting of the gun ban and other election-related prohibitions, Jimenez said in a text message to Rappler that a Comelec resolution or issuance is needed to formalize it.

We await guidelines from the Commission En Banc re #GunBan — COMELEC (@COMELEC) October 4, 2017

"In any case, the postponement law will only take effect tomorrow (Thursday)" because of the law's publication requirement, Jimenez added.  

RA 10952 states that it shall be effective "immediately following the completion of its publication either in the Official Gazette or in two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines."

It also specifies that the Comelec must promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) within 15 days after the law's effectivity.

"We need to formally suspend [the election]," clarified Jimenez, adding that the Chairman's memorandum issued to Comelec department heads and regional election directors "essentially puts field officials on notice."

'Postponement should be last one'

The enactment of RA 10952 marked the second time the village and youth council elections were postponed under the Duterte administration.

This prompted Senator Ralph Recto to say on Wednesday that this "must be the final one."

In a statement, Recto said he is "counting on the palabra de honor (word of honor) of Malacañang that this will be the last cancellation."

Should the May 2018 polls be postponed again, said Recto, "it will constitute a 'strike 3' against democracy." 

The senator pointed out that public officials from all levels are like "contractual employees" elected to fixed terms.

"The effect, however, of the postponement, is that barangay officials who have lost the trust of their constituents – like those who coddle or are in cahoots with drug lords – are gifted with another year in office," argued Recto.

"People should not be robbed of their right to replace their leaders or renew their trust on them," he added.

Postponing the polls also incurs fiscal cost, said Recto. "Every time we reset, we pay a postponement fee, in the hundreds of millions, for activities which must be conducted again." – with reports from Michael Bueza and Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com

*$1 = P50.95

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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