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GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The head of the Catholic Church’s humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm in the Philippines on Tuesday, June 8, called on the incoming Marcos administration and the next Congress to push through with the barangay and youth elections this December.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of the Diocese of Kidapawan said the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections should not take the backseat if the next set of government officials see the barangay as the most basic political unit and respect the citizens’ exercise of their fundamental democratic right to choose leaders.
Bagaforo, head of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA-Caritas Philippines), issued the call after House majority leader and Leyte 1st Representative Martin Romualdez sought to postpone again the elections so the government can save some P8.141 billion, and use the fund for its COVID-19 pandemic response.
Romualdez, a first cousin of president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is likely to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He said the question of whether or not to postpone the elections should be tackled by the next Congress and considered a part of its priority agenda.
The barangay and SK elections have been deferred twice already since 2016. It is scheduled to take place this December.
But Bagaforo said, “Pushing back the barangay and SK elections for the third time since 2016 reflects how our national political leaders undermine the importance of barangay-level politics in the exercise of our democratic rights… It is not right for the government to suppress electoral processes.”
He argued that the barangay and SK elections “are seen as the most accessible and organic form of citizen engagement in public service and governance.”
Bagaforo also pointed out that the government has already eased public health restrictions across the country, and politicians can no longer use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to defer the December elections.
Eduardo Vargas, a former barangay chairman of Bula, General Santos, said many residents want to have new sets of barangay officials to run the affairs in their communities.
“This is their right, and it must not be ignored,” Vargas told Rappler.
Dante Granada, a barangay councilor, said he also wanted the elections to push through so that there will be new leaders, and incumbent barangay officials could seek a fresh mandate. – Rappler.com